Western Morning News 11:00 - 05 November 2003
Two of the UK's top judges have ruled that Totnes GM protester Liz Snook should be found guilty of civil disobedience in a High Court decision.
The High Court overturned a not guilty decision by a district judge over her right to protest again GM maize trials by chaining herself to a tractor. Lord Justice Brooke and Mr Justice Silber yesterday ruled that the lower court was wrong, with a direction that she should be convicted. The court allowed the challenge by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the decision by Dorset magistrates who had cleared Snook and three others of trespass in March. The district judge at Sherborne Magistrates Court cleared 26-year-old Snook and the others of causing a nuisance. The lower court ruled that she had not acted unreasonably.
Lord Justice Brooke, rejected the protesters' defence that they were defending property. "It is clear that the respondents knew quite well that there was nothing unlawful about the drilling of GM maize seed on the land, even if the seed might blow about or be transferred by one means or another to neighbouring land. "
Lord Justice Brooke said the judge who cleared the protesters should have accepted their defence was not allowable.
"The case must therefore be remitted to him with a direction to convict, since no defence of lawful excuse is available to the defendants."
Snook, who has previous protest convictions, claimed at the magistrates court she considered GM crops a "serious threat" to the eco-system and that her protest had been "as a last resort."
However, the Director of Public Prosecutions, argued that there was "no acceptable defence to the charges."
HIGH COURT SAYS GM PROTESTERS ARE GUILTY
Western Morning News
10:27 - 05 November 2003
Four gm crop protesters, including two from the Westcountry, have been ordered by the High Court to be convicted of criminal offences after shackling themselves to tractors during a demonstration.
In a successful appeal, the Director of Public Prosecutions won orders overturning a district judge's decision to accept the protesters' defence that they were protecting the environment.
In a ruling which will come as a blow to the anti-GM movement, Lord Justice Brooke and Mr Justice Silber ruled: "In our judgment, the district judge ought to have directed himself as a matter of law that the defence of private defence or protective force was not available to the respondents". The four were protesting against an experimental trial involving genetically modified maize on farmland in Dorset. Elizabeth Snook, of Totnes; Olaf Bayer, of Oxford; Richard Whistance, from Catcott, Somerset; and William Hart, from Matlock, Derbyshire, were acquitted of aggravated trespass by Judge Roger House, sitting at Sherborne Magistrates' Court in March this year.
The four were prosecuted for leading a protest against a trial of pesticide resistant GM-maize known as strain T-25 being planted at the Horselynch Plantation at Littlemore, near Weymouth, Dorset, on May 16 last year. As well as building a large wooden pink castle by the site entrance, the four disrupted the start of the trial by strapping and locking themselves to tractors which were preparing to sew the GM seeds. At one point during the magistrates' court hearing, Snook, who had been convicted of similar acts of protest in the past, broke down in tears.
She said: "All I wanted to do was to stop the planting of that field. We did what we did as a last resort."
After two days of evidence, the district judge said the four had acted in a "reasonable" way, adding: "I can see you all have huge knowledge of GM crops and I can see you were acting to protect the land and animals."
But yesterday Lord Justice Brooke and Mr Justice Silber said the district judge had erred in law.