Conscientious protector given suspended sentence for defending ancient woodland in landmark case brought by HS2 Ltd and the Secretary of State

For Immediate Release
16 October 2020

Today at Birmingham High Court, Elliott Cuciurean, 22, was issued with a suspended prison sentence for breach of an anti trespass injunction around irreplaceable ancient woodland in Crackley, Warwickshire, being destroyed by HS2 during nesting season.   

Justice Marcus Smith issued a six month sentence suspended for one year, for a number of incidents where Elliott was acting in a peaceful manner within meters of HS2’s fencing.  Elliott must comply with the requirements of this injunction and similar court orders. Further details will be clarified along with costs at a later date.

Robert Lizar’s solicitors intend to lodge an appeal with the Court of Appeal.

HS2 Rebellion believes the harsh outcome of this landmark case should be of real concern to anyone who values the democratic right to peaceful legitimate protest against the government and companies and their roles in ecocide.  

This is the first time HS2 Ltd and the Secretary of State for Transport have used a civil process against ‘persons unknown’ to seek imprisonment of a peaceful protester for contempt of court. Despite the fact the sentence has been suspended, it is very concerning that a person can breach a court order without even knowing that the order exists. It can be seen as a test case which could lead to other similar applications by HS2, other corporations, or the government. 

Statement from Robert Lizar solicitors, representing Elliott: 

“The Judge has today sentenced Mr Cuciurean to a suspended sentence of six months with the imprisonment suspended for a year.

“We are very concerned that wide “persons unknown” injunctions obtained by large corporations and public authorities are out of control and are causing miscarriages of justice. They are having a chilling and unwarranted impact on the right of people to protest against the destruction of the environment.

“This case is a good example of that. Elliott Cuciurean is a young man who devotes his life to protecting the environment and wildlife. He faces imprisonment for breach of a Court order that he did not know about and could not have understood the full implications of. It is a Kafkaesque scenario and one that should concern all who wish to protect the right to oppose the destruction of the environment by large companies or government funded corporations.

“We intend to lodge an appeal with the Court of Appeal and will make these arguments there.”

Full statement can be found here

Targeting a young conscientious protector with prison for defending ancient woodland and acting to protect our futures is shockingly disproportionate and desperate, especially given the declared state of climate and ecological emergency. The Government and the Secretary of State for Transport clearly seek to quash legitimate protest against the destructive and unnecessary High Speed Rail project and silence those bearing witness to HS2’s illegal actions.

In the judgment passed down earlier this week, Elliott was found to have breached the anti trespass injunction over ancient woodland in Crackley, Warwickshire being destroyed by HS2 – despite many alleged incidents being dropped due to lack of evidence.

Mr Cuciurean’s lawyers had defended him on the basis that he was never personally handed a copy of the anti-trespass court order nor could it be said Elliott knew the full terms of the order, and additionally that HS2 had not properly advertised the order. Even though the judge agreed he still accepted some incidents as breaches of the injunction. 

The clearance of ancient woodland in Warwickshire took place during nesting season, when HS2 took the opportunity of lockdown and the media focused on the battle against Covid-19 to expedite their destructive works.  HS2 cleared hundreds of trees during bird nesting and wildlife breeding season, flouting wildlife laws [2]. A number of wildlife crimes were reported to the police as well as numerous incidents of abuse towards protesters carried out by the National Eviction Team – contracted by the Secretary of State for Transport. 

Ongoing work is being carried out across HS2 sites without sufficient wildlife and environmental assessment, bat mitigation licences and without ecologists on site to monitor HS2’s work. As the public outcry to stop the contentious rail project has increased, so have the frequency and intensity of violent attacks not just on our countryside but on those who seek to peacefully protect it.

Photos above by Maria Reaney

Environmental campaigners gathered again outside the High Court in Birmingham to support Elliot, known as Jellytot, for the proceedings.

Ends


Notes to editors

For more information contact 07969 083 371 and HS2Rebellion@gmail.com

[1] – Robert Lizar press release
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PNQrNB-HWoMNEL5m7KG84v9rBRivDV94/view?usp=sharing

[2] – HS2 Rebellion Press Release from Tuesdays judgement – with further quotes from Robert Lizar solicitors, Lawyers against HS2 and Extinction Rebellions political circle
https://hs2rebellion.earth/2020/10/13/judgement-released-on-hs2-and-government-application-to-imprison-a-conscientious-protector/

The injunction was brought into force on March 26th 2020 covering vast areas of land surrounding ancient woodlands including Crackley Woods, in Warwickshire. HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport gained the injunction to prevent environmental protectors from entering the land, thereby making it easier for HS2 to clear unlawfully during bird nesting, badger breeding and bat maternity season, without public scrutiny.

The first hearing of this case took place at the end of July, with a further hearing of closing statements on September 17th[4]. Given the complexities of the landmark case Justice Smith reserved his judgement until today, Friday October 16th.

About HS2 Rebellion

HS2 Rebellion is an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against HS2, including but not exclusively: StopHS2, Save Cubbington Woods, Crackley Woods Protection Camp, Denham Ford Protection Camp, Poors Piece Conservation Project and XR. It is entirely distinct from Extinction Rebellion, but does form part of the Movement of Movements, alongside other sister groups like Wildlife Rebellion, Animal Rebellion and Global Justice Rebellion. https://hs2rebellion.earth/ 

2 thoughts on “Conscientious protector given suspended sentence for defending ancient woodland in landmark case brought by HS2 Ltd and the Secretary of State

  1. There needs to be a massive nationwide protest against HS2. It was never worth destroying ancient woodland to shave a mere twenty minutes off the journey to London, but now we have the added issue of a Covid induced recession. Use the money for rescue packages, not contracts for the boys.

    Like

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