Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Trial of Six Eco-Activists Collapses as Undercover Policeman 'Goes Native'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Trial of Six Eco-Activists Collapses as Undercover Policeman 'Goes Native'

Article excerpt

Byline: Benedict Moore-Bridger

POLICE chiefs were facing serious questions after an undercover Met officer who "went native" triggered the collapse today of a key eco-activist trial.

Six environmental activists were due to go on trial accused of trying to shut down one of Britain's biggest power stations.

But the case collapsed amid allegations that Pc Mark Kennedy, who had infiltrated the group to expose their activities, had switched sides.

The six were charged with conspiring to shut down the coalfired Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire in 2009. Their case was due to be heard at Nottingham crown court but was abandoned after the defence told the prosecution it planned to pursue disclosure relating to Mr Kennedy before the trial judge.

Mr Kennedy, who was under cover for seven years at an estimated cost of more than [pounds sterling]1.75 million, allegedly offered to give evidence for the defence. One estimate put the cost of the trial's collapse at more than [pounds sterling]400,000.

Mr Kennedy, who is married with children, led a double life since 2000 as Mark Stone, an environmental campaigner in Nottingham, where he also had a girlfriend. He was a key member of the group until protesters found documents revealing his true identity in October. When defence barristers submitted a disclosure request asking for information about his involvement, the prosecution immediately dropped the case despite 20 months of investigation.

The Guardian claimed today that Mr Kennedy had quit the Met and told friends that what he did was wrong. He is understood to be torn over his betrayal, telling one activist: "I'll just say I am sorry, for everything."

Mike Schwarz, a solicitor at Bindmans, the lawyers who represented the protesters, said: "I have no doubt that our attempts to get disclosure about Kennedy's role has led to the collapse of the trial.

"Given that Kennedy was, until recently, willing to assist the defence, one has to ask if the police were facing up to the possibility their undercover agent had turned native." The CPS said the new information which led to the collapse of the trial was "not the existence of an under cover officer" but refused to comment on claims that the officer had volunteered to give evidence on behalf of the defence. The CPS said: "Previously unavailable information that significantly undermined the prosecution's case came to light on Wednesday, 5 January 2011.

"In light of this information, the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the case and decided there was no longer sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. "There will be a hearing on Monday at which we will offer no evidence."

Activists who knew Mr Kennedy closely today claimed that rather than simply observing, he had been actively involved in a number of direct action campaigns. …

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