4 December 2000
‘Positive purpose’ to GM trashing

By FWi staff

A JUDGE has found protesters guilty of criminal damage for destroying genetically modified crops – but accepted they thought they had a “positive purpose”.

At Liverpool Magistrates Court, district judge Paul Firth conditionally discharged a group of five for 12 months and ordered them to pay a total of 1500 in costs, reports the Press Association agency.

A trial at Darlington Magistrates Court last month heard how the group pulled up and bagged 2000 worth of oilseed rape.

This research crop had been planted for at a farm in Hutton Magna, Co Durham, by AgrEvo UK in October last year.

Stephen Gordon, 26, Hugh Baker, 26, and Zoey Exley, 23, all of Manchester, Miss Exleys mother Lorraine, 51, of Poole, Dorset, and Emma Henry, 22, of York, all admitted destroying the crops, but denied causing criminal damage.

They said removing the oilseed was necessary to prevent GM contamination of other plants and farmland.

Mr Firth, who heard the case at Darlington, said “the motives of the five defendants were wholly positive motives”, reports PA.

He added: “I accept the honesty of their motives insofar as they believed that they were doing this for a positive purpose.”

Mr Frith did not order them to pay 2000 in compensation to AgrEvo – now Aventis – or George Richardson who farms the land.

In September, Greenpeace executive director Lord Melchett and 27 other supporters were cleared of criminal damage to a GM maize crop.

The National Farmers Union claimed that that acquittal was tantamount to declaring open season for protestors who want to rip up crops on farmland.