TWENTY-nine environmental campaigners convicted of offences after a North Yorkshire power station protest where a police officer was working undercover had their convictions quashed by leading judges today (Tuesday).
The Court of Appeal hearing in London came after an announcement in 2012 by the then director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer that there were concerns about the safety of convictions which followed the Drax power station protest near Selby in 2008.
The convictions were overturned by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Irwin.
Convictions followed a protest when campaigners ambushed a freight train as it took fuel to Drax, the largest coal-fired power station in Europe.
Participants in the non-violent protest were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court in 2009 and 2010 for obstructing the railway.
They were charged with obstructing engines or carriages on railways, which is an offence under the Malicious Damage Act 1861.
The actions of former undercover officer Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years posing as Mark Flash Stone, had led to the collapse in 2011 of the case against six protesters accused of planning to invade the coal-fired Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire and led to a review of police undercover tactics.
Mr Starmer said in 2012 he was inviting those convicted after the Drax protest to appeal after a review of the case by a senior CPS lawyer and after taking advice on the safety of the convictions from a senior QC.
Today, the convictions were quashed because of the failure in the Drax case to disclose the fact that Mr Kennedy had been working undercover in the protest.
Lord Thomas said: "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."
Outside court, Beth Stratford, speaking on behalf of the 29, said: "We are pleased because this shines a light on the underhand tactics of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in their policing of political movements.
"It underlines further the need for public independent inquiry into the use of political policing."