Extinction Rebellion protesters who blocked access to a HS2 construction site in Hertfordshire have been told they have no case to answer.
The protest took place on Friday, October 9, at a site near Maple Cross where more than 20 activists spent almost 10 hours blocking the entrance of the site, as part of a co-ordinated protest across HS2 sites.
The non-violent protest included erecting bamboo structures to block entrance to the site, although foot pedestrians and small vehicles were able to enter and leave the site.
Hertfordshire Constabulary charged 21 people with Section 241 (D) of the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act, following the protest.
Seven activists were set to stand trial at St Albans Magistrates Court on August 23, but the case was dropped just an hour into the trial.
They were the final group of activists to have charges in connection with the protest dropped. The first round of cases were abandoned in May, and the cases set to be heard in September also scrapped.
A week prior to the trial, the charges facing the seven activists were altered to Section 241 (C) ‘Hide or deprive or hinder use of tools/clothes/property’, which the protesters denied.
However, the case was dropped on the first morning of proceedings after the judge said the defendants had not had adequate time to prepare.
It was decided it was not in the interests of justice to adjourn for another date.
The group are arguing that the Government should scrap the HS2 project, and invest in the NHS, and in local services.
Phase One of the new high speed railway is currently being built between London and the West Midlands, with the railway passing through the Chilterns at West Hyde. Phase One is expected to cost around £40billion.
The group also criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for bringing the charges against protesters, and accused the CPS of upholding trial dates to discourage activists from peaceful protest.
Teresa Norton, one of the defendants, said: “Seven of us turned up at St Albans Court on Monday 23rd to face the new charge of hiding tools. By 12pm the judge agreed with the defence that there was not enough time given to prepare, so the case was dismissed.
“Although we are pleased the case was dismissed we are angry that the prosecution decided to continue, especially as the September trial for the final group had been cancelled, as had others previously. Disorganised and in disarray, HS2 are a disgrace.”
A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “It is not the function of the CPS to investigate allegations of a criminal nature or to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make assessments about whether it is appropriate to present charges for the court to consider.
“The CPS reviews each case on its own facts and circumstances and applies the two-stage evidential test as set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
“It is the duty of prosecutors to make sure that the right person is prosecuted for the right offence and to bring offenders to justice wherever possible.
“The CPS has a duty of continuous review of our cases, including those that have already been charged, which requires prosecutors to take account of any change in circumstances that occurs as the case develops.
“Each case is decided on its own merits and may result in further or alternative charges being brought.
“In respect of the 21 activists who were arrested in connection with the protest at the HS2 site in Maple Cross on 9 October 2020, the protests occurred at various locations in the area and each protest site was considered separately.
“The CPS cannot comment on remarks made by individuals during court hearings.”