"WHOLLY POSITIVE MOTIVES" FOR GM CROP DESTRUCTION
No jury in this case but still an interesting result - judge finds crop trashers guilty but comments, "This was wilful in the sense of deliberate, but the motives of the five defendants were wholly positive motives." He also refused to order any compensation to Aventis.
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Judge sees positive side in guilt of GM crop protestors
The Northern Echo - 4 December 2000
FIVE activists were yesterday found guilty of destroying genetically modified (GM) crops at a North-East farm.
But the judge who convicted them said he accepted they honestly believed they had "positive motives".
A four-day trial at Darlington Magistrates' Court last month heard how the three women and two men pulled up and removed £2,000 worth of oil seed rape which had been planted for research purposes at a farm in Hutton Magna, near Barnard Castle.
Stephen Gordon, 26, Hugh Baker, 26, and Zoey Exley, 23, all of Manchester, Miss Exley's mother Lorraine, 51, of Poole, Dorset, and Emma Henry, 22, of York, all admitted destroying the crops on October 30 last year, but denied causing criminal damage.
They said removing the GM plants was necessary to prevent gene pollution, which they claimed could damage crops, farmland, the environment and public health.
At Liverpool Magistrates' Court yesterday district judge Paul Firth conditionally discharged the five for 12 months and ordered them to pay a total of £1,500 in costs.
But he stopped short of ordering them to pay £2,000 in compensation to AgrEvo UK Limited, now known as Aventis, or George Richardson who farms the land at Hutton House Farm.
Mr Firth said: ''I am accustomed to dealing with many defendants who damage property belonging to others. Almost without exception the damage caused is wilful, disruptive and negative.
''I say almost because this is the exception. This was wilful in the sense of deliberate, but the motives of the five defendants were wholly positive motives."
Following the verdict, Ms Exley senior said she was relieved that they were not being made to compensate AgrEvo UK.
''We feel this is a victory because we removed the crops, brought people's awareness to the dangers of GM crops and what happens to us is immaterial because it is the action that counts," she said.
Mr Gordon, a part-time lecturer in computing at Manchester Metropolitan
University, said he felt they would have stood more chance of being acquitted
if the trial had been heard before a jury, as
Greenpeace activists had earlier this year.
''We believe it is a right for people to go out and find out about these
issues and deal with them in any way they feel fit.