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Ratcliffe trial

The convicted activists will be sentenced in January and could face a prison term

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Climate activists face jail over Ratcliffe coal plot

Tom Levitt

14th December, 2010

Protesters claim attempts to shutdown E.ON's Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station were 'necessary in the fight against climate change' but could still face a maximum of three months in jail

Twenty climate activists who were planning to try and shut down the UK's second largest power station were found guilty of 'conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass' this week by a jury in Nottingham.

The activists were among 114 people arrested in April 2009 in what was believed to be the biggest preemptive arrest in British history. The protest still went ahead in October 2009 and in the end just 20 of the arrested activists went on trial last month - the majority were later released uncharged.

While pleading guilty to the charges the defendants argued that although unlawful, their actions were necessary to prevent further harm caused by carbon emissions from the power station and climate change. The activists claimed that they were acting 'due to the lack of an adequate response to climate change by corporations and politicians'.

Their three-week long trial saw witnesses including world renowned climate scientists James Hansen, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas and former local Nottingham MP Alan Simpson give evidence in support of their case.

The Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station is owned by the energy giant E.ON who has faced similar protests in the past at its Kingsnorth site. Six activists tried to shut down the power station in 2007 but a court later found them not guilty after they successfully argued that protest and painting of ‘Gordon’ onto the cooling stack of a coal fired power station in Kent had ‘lawful excuse’ because of damage caused to the planet by carbon dioxide emissions.

Following the guilty verdict at Nottingham Crown Court, the climate activists said public opinion was 'increasingly turning against the liberties that governments are taking with our future'.

'During this trial we have heard from people on the front line of our changing climate, and from a company that is still burning the most dirty form of fossil fuel for their economic benefit,' said one of the defendants Clare Whitney. 'These worlds are not compatible. Taking action is not an issue of moral righteousness but an act of self-defence. If we’re to stand a chance of avoiding irreversible climate change we’ve got to realise that to bring about a better world we’ll need to do it ourselves.'

The activists will be sentenced in January and face a maximum three month prison sentence.

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