Did undercover climate officer go native?

10 January 2011 by

In a plot worthy of a Hollywood film, the trial of six environmental campaigners charged with conspiring to shut down a power station has apparently collapsed after an undercover police officer switched sides.

According to the BBC:

The six were charged with conspiring to shut down the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottingham in 2009. The case was due to start on Monday, but was abandoned after Pc Mark Kennedy contacted the defence team to say he would be prepared to help them. The prosecution subsequently dropped their case. Mr Kennedy had been intimately involved in the green movement since 2000.

Prosecuting environmental campaigners who seek to damage or disrupt the businesses of alleged polluters is proving to be difficult. Last week Rosalind English posted on the case of the “Ratcliffe 20”, who were spared imprisonment for their planned attack on the same power station. In his sentencing remarks, the judge in the case sympathised with the protesters’ cause, and said he had “no doubt that each of you acted with the highest possible motives. And that is an extremely important consideration.”

Following the case, Eleanor Coombs argued in a guest post that the time has come for a “radical re-think about how we frame our laws to reflect our concern as a society about climate change and its impact on future generations”. See  also the interesting discussion in the comments section to that post.

The limits of the “necessity” defence to criminal damage and other related offences (see Obiter J’s discussion of the defence) is certainly being stretched by the series of recent environmental protester prosecutions, as well as others relating to political activists.

As to the entrapment aspect of the case, which is also controversial, Obiter J reminds us that questions can arise relating to “entrapment” or to whether evidence was obtained “unfairly” and, as a result, should be excluded under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 s.78, which provides for the exclusion of unfairly obtained evidence. Obiter J points out:

R v Smurthwaite and Gill 1994 involved “Solicitation to Murder.”The Court of Appeal looked at the application of PACE s.78 to police undercover operations.  Police officers had posed as “contract killers” and had secretly recorded conversations they held with those soliciting murders.  The Court of Appeal upheld the convictions given that the recordings showed that it was the offender who had made the running and that the officer had taken a minimal role in the planning and had not sought to persuade the offender to commit the offence

We will never know whether the police officer’s conduct may have rendered the evidence obtained unfair. The fact that the CPS appear to have withdrawn the case following enquiries as to PC Kennedy’s role by the defendants’ lawyers could relate more to his offer to give evidence for the defence than to any doubts as to entrapment.

It is highly unlikely that this run of cases will lead to any formal protection for environmental activists who damage or trespass on property. This would amount to endorsing private individuals to breach others’ property rights, which is a slippery slope. Whilst such an approach could be ethically justifiable, it is surely for the state to decide, taking a broad view, when environmental concerns trump private rights, as it does regularly when passing environmental laws.

In any case, with undercover police officers and judges showing sympathy for  the cause, protesters may have all the protection they need.

Sign up to free human rights updates by email, Facebook, Twitter or RSS

Related posts


  1. merrick101 says:

    Just to be clear, there is no firm evidence Kennedy switched sides beyond the word of the long-term liar himself (it’s notable that he worked for the police and private spies until discovered, and then gave no significant information not already known – hardly the actions of one who’s seen the light).

    More importantly, the trial did not collapse because he was helping the defence. He had withdrawn his initial, tentative unspecific agreement to help.

    The trial collapsed because the defence insisted that Kennedy must have made reports and demanded to see them. Rather than disclose this evidence, the Crown chose to fold the case.

    So, it was Kennedy’s obedient serving of his superiors that was the vital ingredient, not his helping the protesters. The opposite of the ‘cop who turned’ narrative. But given such a Hollywood narrative, the mainstream media can’t help themselves.

  2. ObiterJ says:

    Many thanks for the links to my post on this interesting
    situation which has quite of lot law in it. The solicitor for the 6
    who would have been on trial is reported as saying: “Serious
    questions must be asked relating to the policing of protest, from
    the use of undercover officers, to the use of expensive and legally
    questionable mass pre-emptive arrest of protesters, to extremely
    restrictive pre-charge bail conditions, to the seemingly arbitrary
    nature by which the 114 initially arrested were reduced to the
    final 26 who were eventually charged.”
    Could not really do justice in short posts on a blog to subjects
    such as “necessity as a defence” and “abuse of process” and
    “exclusion of evidence” but it was good to be able to highlight by
    way of brief summary some of the legal issues involved.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB

This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.




7/7 Bombings 9/11 A1P1 Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality confiscation order conscientious objection consent conservation constitution contact order contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control Health HIV Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights conventions human rights damages Human Rights Day human rights decisions human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration Immigration/Extradition immunity India Indonesia Infrastructure Planning Committee Inhuman and degrading treatment injunction Inquest Inquests insurance intelligence services act intercept evidence interception interim remedies international international criminal court international law international treaty obligations internet internet service providers internship inuit investigation investigative duty Iran Iranian nuclear program Iraq Iraq War Ireland islam Israel Italy iTunes IVF ivory ban jackson reforms Janowiec and Others v Russia ( Japan Jason Smith Jeremy Corbyn jeremy hunt job Jogee John Hemming John Terry joint enterprise joint tenancy Jon Guant Joseph v Spiller journalism judaism Judges and Juries judging Judicial activism judicial brevity judicial deference judicial review Judicial Review reform judiciary Julian Assange jurisdiction jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Act Justice and Security Bill Justice and Security Green Paper Justice Human Rights Awards JUSTICE Human Rights Awards 2010 just satisfaction Katyn Massacre Kay v UK Ken Clarke Kerry McCarthy Kettling Kings College koran burning Labour Lady Hale LASPO Law Pod UK Law Society of Scotland legal aid legal aid cuts legal blogs Legal Certainty legal naughty step Legal Ombudsman legal representation legitimate expectation let as a dwelling Leveson Inquiry Levi Bellfield lewisham hospital closure lgbtq liability Libel libel reform Liberty library closures Libya licence conditions life sentence lisbon treaty Lithuania Litigation litvinenko live exports local authorities locked in syndrome London Legal Walk London Probation Trust Lord Bingham Lord Blair Lord Goldsmith lord irvine Lord Judge speech Lord Kerr Lord Lester Lord Neuberger Lord Phillips Lord Taylor luftur rahman MAGA Magna Carta Majority Verdict Malcolm Kennedy malice Margaret Thatcher Margin of Appreciation Maria Gallastegui marriage material support maternity pay Matthew Woods Mba v London Borough Of Merton McKenzie friend Media and Censorship Medical medical negligence medical records medicine mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Capacity Act 2005 Mental Health mental health act mental health advocacy mental health awareness Mental illness MGN v UK michael gove Midwives migrant crisis military Milly Dowler Ministry of Justice Ministry of Justice cuts misfeasance in public office modern slavery morality morocco mortuaries motherhood Moulton Mousa MP expenses Mr Gul Mr Justice Eady MS (Palestinian Territories) (FC) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department murder music Musician's Union Muslim NADA v. SWITZERLAND - 10593/08 - HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1691 naked rambler Naomi Campbell nationality National Pro Bono Week national security Natural England nature conservation naturism Nazi negligence Neuberger neuroscience news new Supreme Court President NHS NHS Risk Register Nicklinson Niqaab Noise Regulations 2005 Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance nursing nursing home Obituary Occupy London Offensive Speech oil spill olympics open justice oppress OPQ v BJM orchestra Osama Bin Laden paramountcy principle parental rights parenthood parliamentary expenses parliamentary expenses scandal Parliament square parole board pastor Terry Jones patents Pathway Students Patrick Quinn murder Pensions persecution Personal Injury personality rights perversity PF and EF v UK Phil Woolas phone hacking phone taps physical and mental disabilities physician assisted death Pinnock Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system plebgate POCA podcast points Poland Police police investigations police liability police powers police state police surveillance Policy Exchange report political judges Politics Politics/Public Order poor reporting Pope portal possession proceedings post office power of attorney PoW letters to ministers pre-nup pre-nuptial Pre-trial detention pregnancy press press briefing press freedom Prince Charles prince of wales princess caroline of monaco principle of subsidiarity prior restraint prison Prisoners prisoners rights prisoners voting prisoner vote prisoner votes Prisons prison vote privacy privacy injunction privacy law through the front door Private life private nuisance private use proceeds of crime Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecution Protection of Freedoms Act Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest protest camp protest rights Protocol 15 Public/Private public access publication public authorities Public Bodies Bill public inquiries public interest public interest environmental litigation public interest immunity Public Order Public Sector Equality Duty quango quantum quarantine Queen's Speech queer in the 21st century R (on the application of EH) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 2569 (Admin) Rabone and another v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust [2012] UKSC 2 race relations Rachel Corrie Radicalisation Radmacher Ramsgate rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion resuscitation RightsInfo right to die right to family life right to life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials security services sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa south african constitution Spain special advocates spending cuts Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg sumption super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance Syria Tax Taxi technology Terrorism terrorism act tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: