Anti-GM campaigners court acquittal shock

6 July 2001

Anti-GM campaigners court acquittal shock

A FARMER who has been targeted twice by anti-GM campaigners was "flabbergasted" after a court acquitted 11 activists of crop damage.

Hundreds of campaigners assembled near Jim Duttons Sunnymeade Farm on the outskirts of Wivenhoe, near Colchester, Essex, last Saturday (Jun 24) because the unit is hosting a GM forage maize trial for the biotechnology company Aventis.

Seven people were arrested for criminal damage and trespass during an otherwise peaceful event organised three days after 11 protestors were acquitted by a court of causing criminal damage to a GM crop trial on the farm last summer.

The acquittal came after it emerged that the activists had damaged 2ha (5 acres) of conventional maize rather than the GM maize mentioned in the charges against them. The conventional maize had been sown with 2ha (5 acres) of a GM variety.

At Harwich Magistrates Court, district judge Kevin Gray said an amended criminal damage charge had never been put to the defendants and he had no choice but to acquit them. All had pleaded not guilty, claiming they had acted to protect the environment and the food chain.

Mr Dutton said he was flabbergasted by the acquittal. "The Crown Prosecution Service should have known the activists damaged the conventional maize crop, not the GM plants. It is absolutely ridiculous. The whole arrest and prosecution process had been a waste of valuable police time."

Police had been called to his farm in the early hours of July 20 last year. Six men and five women allegedly seen trampling the crop were arrested and charged. Some of those arrested following the latest protest were from as far afield as Oxford, London and Northants. &#42

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