Stamford protestor’s conviction quashed at Court of Appeal

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A Stamford climate change activist who was convicted for his part in a mass protest alongside an undercover police officer has had his 
conviction overturned.

Felix Wright, 30, of Casewick, was among a group of 29 men and women from across the country, who were convicted.

The campaigners ambushed a freight train as it took fuel to Europe’s largest coal-fired power station, Drax in Selby, Yorkshire, in 2008.

The activists, who also included a Stafford priest and a London filmmaker, were handed a range of sentences, from unpaid work to financial penalties and conditional discharges.

But after an appeal by their lawyers at the Court of Appeal in London, their convictions have now been quashed by senior judge, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas.

The appeal hearing followed an announcement in 2012 by director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, that there were concerns over the convictions.

The group, who were alleged to have flagged down and then hijacked the train, causing widespread disruption, had been convicted of obstructing a railway at Leeds Crown Court in hearings in 2009 and 2010.

Their convictions were quashed on appeal because of the failure of the prosecution to disclose to defence lawyers the fact that an undercover police officer had infiltrated the protest.

The actions of the former officer, Mark Kennedy, who posed as protester Mark Stone, had already led to the collapse of cases against activists planning an action at the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire.

Mr Kennedy, who hired a van and transported activists to the Drax site, kept detailed records of what happened and communicated them to senior police officers in West Yorkshire.

“None of that was disclosed at the trial or at any time prior to it,” said Lord Thomas, who heard the appeal with Mr Justice Simon and Mr 
Justice Irwin.

“There was a complete and total failure, for reasons which remain unclear, to make a disclosure fundamental to the defence.

“In those circumstances, this court has no alternative but to quash the convictions.”

Lord Thomas asked counsel to prepare written submissions on the question of who should be responsible for the “substantial” legal costs incurred, to be decided at a later date.

Querying why the Ministry of Justice should foot the bill, he said it was “a plain case of fault”, either by West Yorkshire Police or the Crown Prosecution Service.

At their trials, the defendants told jurors they did not believe they were doing anything criminal because they were trying to prevent climate change.