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FIVE Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists had their trial thrown out today after the prosecution failed to give its key witness enough notice to attend.
Deputy District Judge Vincent McDade dismissed the case, the first relating to XR’s City Airport action in October last year, at City of London magistrates’ court due to “abject failings” by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
He said that the CPS had failed to give its key witness, the police officer who had arrested the activists, enough notice ahead of the trial, which meant that the officer had already booked a holiday.
The defendants had faced charges of aggravated trespass after they glued themselves to the concourse between London City Airport and its Docklands Light Railway station.
The judge said that the officer was always going to be a “vital witness to establish the lawfulness or otherwise of the arrests,” meaning that he had “no option but to dismiss all matters against all defendants.”
One of the activists, Claudia Fisher, 57, said it was clear that the CPS “can’t get their act together.”
She told the Morning Star: “It makes them look really silly.”
Former chief scientific adviser to the government Sir David King had arrived at the court prepared to give evidence in defence of the activists.
Ms Fisher’s co-defendants were Phoebe Valentine, 23, also from Brighton; David Lambert, 60, from Gloucestershire; Senan Clifford, 59, from Gloucestershire and Ben Bont, 42, from west Wales.
Defending them before the trial, during which he took a seat in the public gallery, Mr King said: “What we are talking about is the most important issue humanity has ever had to face up to.
“And when I say humanity, I mean all of us. We’re all in this boat together.
“Whatever we do over the next 10 years on climate change, actions that we do, will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years.
“What we have got now is a very short timeline to get ourselves out of this mess. And yet the public has been barely aware of it.”
Mr King, former adviser to prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, argued that the government was not doing enough to address the climate emergency, with issues such as Brexit serving as a “distraction.”
Mr King had been asked to testify at the trial by businesswoman Ms Fisher, who said that she had wanted to see if the court admitted the adviser’s statement as evidence.
In his prepared statement, the adviser makes the case that lives would be saved if the government committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions earlier than its current target of 2050. XR is calling for a net-zero target of 2025.
Mr King writes: “It is hard to see how the global temperature rise is to be limited, on average, to 1.5°C in the very narrow timeframe still available unless it becomes a matter of real urgency within the spheres of national and global politics.”
The world is currently on track for 3-4°C of global warming, he warned, which will result in “unmanageable risks.”
Mr King said that environmentalists such as Greta Thunberg and XR activists were forcing the public and world leaders to recognise the urgent action required to tackle the climate emergency.
Although Ms Fisher and her co-defendants could have received sentences of up to three months, she plans to continue taking part in actions.
“I don’t have a choice,” she said. “I would like my children and my grandchildren to have a future. And right now they are not going to.”
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