The trio were found guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of damaging "without reasonable excuse" property at Boghall Farm, Penicuik, Midlothian. Their target had been GM oil-seed rape, but they were tricked by decoy markings in the fields and uprooted conventionally cultivated plants, causing damage of £1.60.
After their victory at the appeal court, Mr Ballard said: "The crux of the case was that we believed we had a ?reasonable excuse? to pull up GM crops. We led evidence that once they flowered, there is a real risk of serious damage to the wider environment. The prosecution failed to lead any evidence in rebuttal."
At the trial, Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie, QC, had rejected the "reasonable excuse" defence. The appeal court heard no argument on the issue because, at the start of the hearing, the advocate-depute, Graham Bell, QC, said the Crown, without making any concession on the merits of the case, was not seeking to support the convictions.
He said the three men had been prejudiced by a "greatly regrettable" delay in the hearing of the appeal. Mr Bell said the sheriff ought to have prepared a report for the appeal court within 11 weeks, but the matter had "simply drifted" and it took 90 weeks.
He also admitted the Crown "took no active part in finding out what had happened".
Lord Macfadyen, sitting with Lord Carloway and Sir Gerald Gordon, QC, agreed that the convictions should be quashed because of the delay
From The Scotsman Sat 29th March