Hove campaigner Tom Druitt and five others acquitted of Bexhill link road protest charges

Tom Druitt

Tom Druitt

First published in News
Last updated

UPDATE: Six activists who locked themselves to the top of trees along the site of a controversial road development have been found not guilty of any crime.

Kim Harrison, 30, Valerie Archer, 34, Alistair Cannall, 24, Tom Druitt, 35, Maria Gallastegui, 55, and Christopher Hopkins, 29, were all released without charge following a trial at Brighton Magistrates' Court.

The six were accused of trespass following their actions during the high-profile demonstration against the building of the Bexhill to Hastings link road in January 2013.

District judge Peter Crabtree said while they had committed trespass in civil law, they did not reach the threshold to be found guilty in a criminal court.

The protesters arrived at the site in Crowhurst Road, Hastings, in late December 2012 and January 2013 ahead of the scheduled clearing of trees for the road.

A camp was set up with numerous tents, a catering facility and tunnels in which protesters planned to hide when work started.

The group also constructed makeshift platforms and tree houses in anticipation of work starting.

On January 15, whistles were sounded to mark an expected eviction and the six secured themselves in the top of the trees.

The court heard how they locked themselves to each other and the trees and refused to come down when asked by civil enforcement officers.

It was only when specialist tree climbing bailiffs were deployed that they came down.

In his summing up district judge Crabtree said they were “clearly” trespassing on compulsory purchase order land in a civil sense.

However, he accepted that their main aim was to prompt media coverage and put pressure on government and local council rather than disrupt lawful construction work.

Miss Harrison, of Grand Parade, London, Miss Gallastegui, of no fixed abode, Ms Archer, of Mornington Grove, London, Mr Cannall, of London Road, Brighton, and Mr Druitt, of Osmond Road, Hove, celebrated outside court following the verdict.

Mr Hopkins, of Asturias, Spain, was at home.

Speaking outside court Mr Druitt described it as a “great day for the right to protest”.

He said: “Our campaign is enthused, vindicated, motivated and this basically says we can legitimately protest within reasonable boundaries and that right will be upheld.

“It is a great vindication of our efforts to save the Combe Haven Valley. Let's make sure this does not happen again in terms of wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds on a complete nonsense.”

Mr Cannall added: “I think it leaves a really clear message to the government and the councils around the country that whenever they push through these unpopular roads projects there is going to be opposition from people who live there.”

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