Magistrates Acquit GM Crop Protesters
John Vidal / The Guardian 13jun01
hearing the news, several local people visited another GM field
near Weymouth and started to pull the crop down. No one was
Seven protesters who dressed as grim reapers and cut down and trampled on a genetically modified maize crop in a protest over government trials were acquitted yesterday by Weymouth magistrates of aggravated trespass.
It is thought to be the first time that magistrates rather than a jury have acquitted GM protesters. Since the Greenpeace trial when Lord Melchett and 18 others were acquitted, there has been official concern that juries are more likely to take the protesters' side.
On hearing the news, several local people visited another GM field near Weymouth and started to pull the crop down. No one was arrested.
The GM maize was 5ft high when the seven defendants and about 90 others invaded a 33 acre field at Tolbridge Farm near Sherborne, Dorset, on July 16 last year.
Christopher Black, 45, David Cooper, 37, Simon Fairlie, 50, Jacob Hooker, 25, Julie Horn, 37, Rowan Tilly, 43, and Michael Zair, 58, were among those who started to destroy the crops, belonging to Aventis, in front of police, the court was told.
Magistrates were shown a police video of protesters in the field.
About a third of the crop was damaged in the non-violent protest. The court was told that the seven defendants had told police during interviews that they were in the field, and said they were protesting about the use of genetically modified maize, which they considered dangerous.
Aventis product development manager Judith Jordan had told the court that the GM crop was part of a trial to test its herbicide resistance.
The case collapsed after arguments that the charge of aggravated trespass did not stand up.
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