Seven Londoners who lived in a 100 ft network of tunnels under Euston Square Gardens for 31 days to stop HS2 have had all charges dismissed, the group told City A.M. this morning.
The defendants were part of a group of nine people, aged 16-48, who occupied the tunnels between 27 January and 27 February of this year.
They dug the tunnel, they said, to ‘protect Euston Square Gardens, one of London’s most visited green spaces, from destruction by HS2’, who wanted to build a temporary taxi rank and potentially high rise offices.
Their trial, scheduled to last all of this week, was cut short as the prosecution case collapsed. District Judge Susan Williams dismissed all seven charges of aggravated trespass and one of criminal damage, declaring there was “no case to answer.”
Referring to the moment, at 4.15am, when around a hundred bailiffs stormed the park and Buckingham Pallets community centre built by volunteers working in the park, Judge Williams said: “There is no evidence of any constructor or construction taking place on the land at that time.”
The judge added that public money should not have been used to bring a case against Daniel Hooper, 48, also known as “Swampy”, Dr Larch Maxey, 49, Isla Sandford, 18, Lachlan Sandford, 20, Juliett Stevenson-Clarke, 22, and Scott Breen, 47.
Simon Natas, of ITN Solicitors, who represented the protesters, welcomed the judge’s decision.
“The protesters always maintained they never committed the offence of aggravated trespass. They have now been vindicated. We are extremely pleased,” he said.
Tunneller’ Isla Sandford told City A.M. this morning: “In court we heard talk of tunnel collapse but until its cancelled HS2 will accelerate societal collapse.”
She referred to official Department of Transport figures, saying the project will emit 14m tons of CO2.
“HS2 will never be carbon neutral and DoT figures show just 1 per cent of passengers would have flown, and just 4 per cent would have driven, so HS2’s talk of a ‘modal shift’ from other forms of transport is utter greenwash,” she said.
HS2 ‘bitterly disappointed’
HS2 has said it is “bitterly disappointed” after charges against climate change protesters who occupied tunnels near Euston Station were dropped.
An HS2 spokesperson said: “The actions of these illegal trespassers put their own lives at risk, as well as the lives of our staff, agents and those of the emergency service personnel who worked around the clock to ensure the well-being of people who placed themselves in such a dangerous situation underground.”
He added: “This action was an enormous waste of public money, especially during the pandemic, and we are bitterly disappointed that the court has not found fit to convict these individuals for their dangerous and irresponsible actions.”