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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
GM protesters cleared of charges
The Etoile
The ship was carrying animal feed to Bristol
Environmental campaigners who staged a protest aboard a cargo ship in the Bristol Channel have been cleared of charges of causing a public nuisance.

The 13 Greenpeace activists claimed the MV Etoile was carrying illegal genetically modified animal feed.

The prosecution told the court that the action had a "wide-ranging" impact.

Speaking after the Cardiff Crown Court jury's unanimous verdict, defendant Ben Ayliffe said: "We would absolutely do it all again if need be."

The 123,000-tonne ship was eventually able to dock after the two-day protest in June 2004.

The 10 men and three women denied a public nuisance charge.

'Fully justified'

Mr Ayliffe, 28, a Greenpeace employee involved in researching GM organisms, had earlier told the jury that the protestors aimed to stop the shipment coming into Avonmouth Docks in Bristol and to force it to return to the USA.

He said: "We are all chuffed to bits and overjoyed with the verdict.

"We were convinced we were fully justified in taking the actions that we did and I'm glad the jury felt the same way."

Greenpeace boarding the ship
Some protesters tied or chained themselves to the vessel

During the trial he said that in the US, GM and non-GM crops were "thrown together", and the UK's Environmental Protection Act was clear that GM material had to be approved.

'Foolhardy'

Jervis Kay QC, prosecuting, told the court that the vessel was forced to anchor and was unable to use her engine.

He described the defendants boarding ladders on either side of the ship and near the rudder, with others in inflatable boats, giving press interviews.

"These foolhardy acts amounted to acts constituting a public nuisance," he said.

The ship's cargo was delayed, costs of hiring the vessel were wasted and there were costs incurred in preparing the vessel to come into harbour.

Defendants were Andrew Taylor, 35, of Stroud, Gloucestershire; Janet Miller, 49, and Huw Williams, 38, both of Buxton, Derbyshire; Tim Hewke, 45, of Sittingbourne, Kent; Nicola Cook, 37, of St Cross, Suffolk; and Cedric Counord, 28, of France.

Other defendants, from London, were Allen Vincent, 42, of Peckham; Michele Rosato, 33, of Bow; Rachel Murray, 31, of Highbury; Jens Loewe, 36, Richard Watson, 40, and Ben Ayliffe, 28, all of Islington; and Frank Hewetson, 40, of Kensal Rise.


SEE ALSO:
GM protest 'was public nuisance'
01 Sep 05 |  Bristol/Somerset


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