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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Protesters cleared over crop damage
Edinburgh Sheriff Court
They were cleared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court
Six environmental protesters have been cleared of obstructing police during a demonstration at a test site for genetically modified crops.

They had faced trial on charges of vandalism and obstruction after allegedly destroying crops at Boghall Farm near Penicuik, Midlothian, last March at a test site for the Scottish Agricultural College.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie found Catherine Johnson, 32, a librarian from Fife, and Stokely Webster, 29, a researcher from London, not guilty of obstructing police.

The four others, Mark Ballard, 28, a graphic designer from Stockbridge, Edinburgh, Matthew Herbert, 29, a researcher from St Andrews, Alan Tolmie, 33, a professional busker from Edinburgh and James MacKenzie, 27, a press officer from Stockbridge, were also found not guilty of the same charge.

I have been found not guilty of obstructing the police and I agree with that, justice has been done

Catherine Johnson
However, they must return to court in August over the charge of vandalism.

Outside court Ms Johnson and Ms Webster said they were pleased to have been cleared.

Ms Johnson said: "I feel we have made a point, the whole process of GM crops in Britain is undemocratic and to make a demonstration against something isn't wrong.

"I have been found not guilty of obstructing the police and I agree with that, justice has been done.

"I am glad we have highlighted the situation and the fact that GM crops are a cause for concern.

"They are being grown in open countryside but we don't need them. There's no benefit from them so it doesn't matter whether they are safe or not. I would like to see a return to traditional organic agriculture."

An earlier court hearing was told the protest had left bald patches on a field but caused damage estimated at only 1.50.

It was also claimed protesters missed genetically modified oil seed rape at the site and tore up conventional plants planted as a decoy.

The case against Ballard, Herbert, Tolmie and MacKenzie on charges of vandalism continues on 28 August.

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See also:

09 May 00 | Scotland
Protesters in 'passive resistance'
28 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Mowlam defends GM policy
27 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Blair shifts on GM food
06 Apr 99 | Food under the microscope
Genetically-modified Q&A
06 Apr 99 | Food under the microscope
GM food: A political hot potato
17 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Farmers 'abandon GM crops'
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