I thought I’d offer an update on the death throes of the HS2 ‘rebellion’ which is playing out in both Staffordshire and (shortly), in the Courts.
Four days ago bailiffs, security staff and police took over the last remaining protest camp on the HS2 route, the so-called ‘bluebell’ camp near Swynnerton. The few occupants remaining were caught with their pants down and the camp was swiftly repossessed. One lad got up a tree and was removed within a few hours whilst it’s believed that only 2-3 others made it into tunnels on the site. Meanwhile, a slightly larger group were surrounded and fenced-in at another nearby woods which they (complacently) thought was a ‘safe-haven’ for them. Cut off from supplies and any reinforcements, they’ve been told they can leave anytime they want, but they won’t be allowed back in.
This fiasco made local news on day one but since the media have shown little interest – and why would they? The unprepared tunnel rats have no communications with the outside world so aren’t producing any propaganda. Instead, the ‘campaign’ are relying on dire Facebook rants from two of the protesters ‘Drew’ (not his real name) who’s corralled inside the ‘bluebell B’ camp and who (judging by his video’s) seems to spend most of his time pissed and on Jim Knaggs who was at ‘Bluebell A’ but not on site when the eviction happened. If you’re suffering from insomnia you could always find Knaggs 20 minute long polemics where he invents a long (long!) list of HS2 ‘crimes’ and whatever else he can think of to fill the time with – including constant appeals to mugs to part with more of their money to fund no-hope court cases and fund the squatters beer, ‘baccy and food bills.
Quite how any of these people are meant to be stopping HS2 when they’re hiding in tunnels or corralled behind Heras fencing away from the route is a mystery, but then sense is always in short supply when it comes to trying to talk to these people.
Meanwhile, HS2 contractors and security are busy demolishing the ‘Bluebell A’ camp and preparing to dig out whatever tiny number of tunnel rats remain. Over at ‘Bluebell B’ the impotent protesters bluster (and get pissed) in their cage whilst not being able to do anything else until they get bored, run out of food, fags and alcohol (and whatever other exotic substances they possess) and go home – or get evicted.
It’s farcical. The HS2 ‘rebellion’ has ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. There are no other camps anywhere on the route of HS2 and there’s not likely to be either. On Thursday 26th May HS2 Ltd’s legal team will be back at the High Court in Birmingham where their application for a route-wide injunction will be heard. The Final Hearing is estimated two last 2 days. If the injunction is granted (and there’s every reason to believe that it will) then any further trespass on HS2 land will become a criminal matter. The protesters claim this will make protests against HS2 ‘illegal’ – which is not the case at all. Here’s the wording of the injunction.
There’s another court case pending which has interesting ramifications as it will clear up the legality of protest. The Lord Chief Justice has granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court the case of an HS2 protester (Elliot Cuciurean). The LCJ has certified points of law of public importance for the Supreme Court to adjudicate upon, these are;
(1) Does the Human Rights Act 1998 require a court when determining a charge of aggravated trespass contrary to section 68 of the Criminal and Public Order Act 1994 to undertake a proportionality assessment when the actions under scrutiny occurred during a protest?
(2) What are the circumstances in which a court is required to carry out a proportionality assessment when determining a criminal charge when the actions alleged to constitute the actus reus* of the offence occurred in the course of protest?
*actus reas – action or conduct which is a constituent element of a crime
(3) What principles should a court apply both at first instance and on appeal when a proportionality assessment is required?
The Supreme Court ruling on these matters will remove any ambiguity in the future which is important as it establishes the law around aspects of the right to protest. This may help or hinder the protesters, but it’s important that it’s established.
Either way, it’s not going to save the HS2 rebellion, which is on its death-bed anyway.
I’ve a favour to ask…
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