07 April 1999
DPP drops GM charges

By FWi staff

THE dropping of charges against two women accused of destroying genetically modified (GM) crops is a green light for other activists, claims their solicitor.

Jacklyn Sheedy and Elizabeth Snook had been charged with conspiracy to cause £605,000 of criminal damage after the GM maize was uprooted in Devon last August.

But the charges were dropped last week after legal experts advised the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to discontinue proceedings for ‘complex’ reasons.

The women’s solicitor, Michael Schwarz, believes those reasons appear to support further direct action by other anti-GM protesters.

One of the reasons for dropping the case was that the cost of the trial would have been disproportionate to the cost of the damage, now reduced to £44,000.

The DPP appears to be saying that activists should plead not guilty if they commit under £50,000 worth of damage, writes Mr Schwarz in The Guardian today.

Another possible reason for the DPP not to prosecute was that the two women were not the ‘ring-leaders’.

This sends a message that activists should continue with non-hierarchical structures, writes Mr Schwarz, a partner with the law firm Bindman and Partners,

A third reason for dropping the case was that, since the action, the government had negotiated with the biotech companies about a possible moratorium on GM crops.

One of those companies, Monsanto, had been recently convicted of breaching the testing regulations at a test site for GM crops in Lincolnshire.

“Where the government is wrong, tardy and makes deals with law-breakers, [this sends a message that] the answer is to take direct action,” writes Mr Schwarz.

Mr Schwarz also believes that the DPP was dissuaded from continuing its legal action because GM crops, rather than the defendants, would have been on trial.

“The defence evidence was compelling,” he writes.

“The government could not countenance a jury finding a jury – a microcosm of society – hearing that evidence and finding GMs guilty.”