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Grass is not always greener

The strange case of the climate activists and undercover cop

The trial against six people charged with conspiracy to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in 2009 collapsed on its first day at Nottingham Crown Court as activists exposed that undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy, had been spying on them for seven years, and had actually helped organise the proposed shut-down. Barristers submitted that the defendants could not have a fair trial if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did not disclose details of the officers’ involvement.

After 20 months of investigation the CPS found ‘previously unavailable evidence’ on 5th January 2011, just five days before the start of the trial, and informed the defence that they will no longer be pressing charges. The six defendants were among the 114 climate campaigners arrested at Nottingham’s Iona School over the Easter weekend in April 2009, the largest pre-emptive arrest of environmental activists in UK history and was widely criticised as a serious erosion of the right to protest.

Mike Schwarz, a solicitor at the law firm who represented the activists said, “I have no doubt that our attempts to get disclosure about Kennedy’s role has led to the collapse of the trial. It is no coincidence that just 48 hours after we told the CPS our clients could not receive a fair trial unless they disclosed material about Kennedy, they halted the prosecution. Given that Kennedy was, until recently, willing to assist the defence, one has to ask if the police were facing up to the possibility their undercover agent had turned native.”

In December last year a further 20 of the 114 stood trial accused of the same offence. They pleaded not guilty on largely political grounds, and 18 of the 20 were subsequently found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass. The defendants were given a range of sentences, the majority receiving conditional discharges, with five receiving the severest punishment of community service.

It has come to light that PC Kennedy was far from a passive observer of the plans to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. Evidence put before the court reveals that he hired and paid for a 7.5tonne truck, due to transport the bulk of equipment to the action. He was also lined up for a role as one of three key climbers.

Kennedy, who went by the alias Mark Stone, had been actively involved in the environmental scene for almost ten years. As an undercover Met police officer he was employed by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, the secretive and unaccountable agency based at Scotland Yard,  to collect intelligence on ‘extremist’ political groups,  embedding himself in Nottingham activist scene to monitor the activities of environmental groups and political activists including anti-capitalist and anarchist groups.

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Article originally appeared in Freedom (Vol72 No01).
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