A Pyrrhic victory for the Crown: Week 2 of the Combe Haven 19 Trials

September 12, 2013 by combehavendefenders

The prosecutor - a courtroom sketch by Emily Johns

The prosecutor – a courtroom sketch by Emily Johns

The second week of Combe Haven 19 trials (begun on Monday 9 September) saw the judge give his verdict in the case of Rosamond Palmer (Trial 2) and the start of Trial 3.

Trial 4 (involving six defendants) will begin as scheduled at 10am on Monday 23 September, which will also see the verdict in Trial 1. See here for details. Please come and support the defendants by observing from the public gallery!

Trial 3 involved three separate incidents: a defendant who was arrested on 7 January after he climbed the arm of mechanical digger that was being used to move felled trees near the Crowhurst Road; two defendants who were arrested on 8 January after having been removed from a tree near the Crowhurst Road; and a fourth defendant who was arrested on 9 January after security personnel allegedly found her trying to climb a tree on land compulsorily purchased by East Sussex County Council in order to build the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR).

Digger-diving in Combe Haven: 7 January 2013

Digger-diving in Combe Haven: 7 January 2013

A significant amount of film footage was shown, and lot of time devoted to the question of whether or not the tree in the 8 January incident was on the highway (where the charge of “Aggravated Trespass” cannot apply) or on private land (where it can). In one memorable encounter a High Court Enforcement Officer was asked if he could explain what Section 10 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 – the piece of legislation he’d just referred to, as the basis for his powers – actually said. He declined.

Nonetheless, by the end of Thursday the prosecution had still not finished presenting its evidence, so Trial 3 has now been adjourned until 21-22 October.

The highlight of Week 2, however, was undoubtedly the verdict in the Rosamond’s case (you can read Rosamond’s own report here). Though she was denied legal aid – and the prosecution spent a small fortune bringing the case – she ended by with a 9-month conditional discharge (in other words she was told to be good for the next 9 months) and no costs: a Pyrrhic victory for the Crown. The latter point was especially telling: apparently feeling unable to ask for a concrete figure, the prosecution had asked for “a contribution” towards their costs -and were denied even that. See the press release below for more info.


Press release
Combe Haven Defenders [1]
Wednesday 11 September

Rosamond Palmer

Rosamond Palmer

Judge suggests one case should not have been brought

The first two trials of people arrested for their opposition to the Bexhill Hastings Link Road (BHLR) have concluded at Hastings Magistrates’ Court.

Rosamond Palmer was arrested on 17 December 2012 after entering the ’1066 Motorcycles’ area in the old railway cutting in Sidley, Bexhill, near to where preparatory tree-felling was taking place.

Representing herself, Ms Palmer told the court that she had not intended to obstruct the work but merely wished to make clear her opposition to what was happening. She called expert witness Derrick Coffee of the Hastings Alliance [3] to give some background on the Link Road, including the environmental destruction it will cause and the poor value for money it represents.

Ms Palmer was convicted of aggravated trespass and given a nine month conditional discharge. She was not ordered to pay court costs despite the prosecutor’s request to the court.

Speaking after the verdict, Ms Palmer said, “ I showed my opposition to the Link Road by sitting in a tree, and my arrest helped generate media coverage and raise awareness. We need an affordable, reliable and sustainable public transport system, but the County Council was determined to build the road and now they are cutting out services to fund it. The judge twice asked the prosecutor whether it was in the public interest  to continue the trial, and each time prosecutor chose to do so. In the end, I got a nine month conditional discharge and the Crown Prosecution Service got a large bill.  It is a Pyrrhic victory for East Sussex County Council.”

In a second case, the court heard that a defendant was arrested on 8 January after occupying a telegraph pole adjacent to Crowhurst Road. Evidence in the case included one police officer admitting that her use of ‘incapacitant spray’ (also known as CS spray) had been contrary to ACPO guidelines [2] and had caused ‘hysteria’ amongst protesters. The verdict in this case case will be delivered on 23 September.

A total of 19 people are on trial for resisting the road; trials will continue at Hastings Magistrates’ Court until at least 4 October, with a further trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 11 October [4]

[1] Combe Haven Defenders https://combehavendefenders.wordpress.com
[2] https://combehavendefenders.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/poles-hysteria-the-public-interest-week-1-of-the-combe-haven-19-trials/acpo-guidance/
[3] http://hastingsalliance.com/
[4] https://combehavendefenders.wordpress.com/save-combe-haven-events-calendar/

%d bloggers like this: