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UK Jury Acquit For Cutting Down GM Crops - Again

PRESS RELEASE - 19 November 2001

Jury acquit for cutting down GM crops - again

Today at Worcester Crown Court a Jury of 8 men and 4 women acquitted, Barbara Charvet, age 59, a retired English teacher and Jim Ridout age 26, a self employed landscape gardener on two counts of criminal damage each when they cut down Genetically Modified (GM) maize in August 2000 at Preston Wynn in Herefordshire [1].

The trial started on Tuesday November 13 at Worcester Crown Court.

The defendants say that their action on 5 August 2000 in openly cutting down the GM maize using sickles was lawful as they acted to prevent immediate damage to near-by crops, the environment and public health. Experts written testimony to support the concerns of the defendants was provided by scientists in genetics and human health, experts in agriculture, bees, pollen, science policy, pesticides and the environment. They were not called to court.

On Thursday, the charges were changed from a single count of criminal damage to two counts of criminal damage against each of the defendants.

One charge for the damage to the GM crops and another for the damage to the non-GM crops. The crops - both varieties of maize - were being grown next to each other as part of the crop trial and both were cut down.

This is the second jury acquittal for cutting down GM crops in Britain [3]. Due to the uncertain value of the damage caused, the defendants had the choice of a magistrates or crown court trial.

Solicitor Mike Schwarz of Bindmans in London and Barristers Anya Lewis/ Terry Munyard were defendant's council. The judge was Judge Ian Morris.

Barbara Charvet, Defendant and Hereford resident said "No one asked local people if they wanted Genetically Modified crops. This trial was as much a trial of them as it was of Jim and me. When the jury acquitted us, they also rejected GM crops."

Jim Ridout, Defendant and Hereford resident stated "For the Government to carry on with these GM crop trials is flying in the face of democracy. Surely now they should abandon these trials and adopt the precautionary principle."

ENDS Contact: Media liaison 07905 771 174 / Pager - 07666 723 818 Mike Schwarz, Solicitor Bindmans 0207 8334433 Barbara and Jim 07890 899541

Editors Notes

[1]The Aventis GM maize was being grown at a crop research centre at Rose Maund, Preston Wynn in Herefordshire. It was part of the Government's farm scale trial programme of GM crops.

[2] Jim and Barbara both local residents had been actively campaigning - writing letters, seeking meetings, demonstrating and petitioning prior to cutting down the GM maize. Over 300 people concerned about GM trials in Worcester/ Herefordshire attended a public meeting in Upton Bishop village hall in May 2000.

[3] On 20 September 2000 Greenpeace volunteers were acquitted in a jury trial at Norwich Crown Court of criminal damage for cutting down GM maize at a farm in Lyng, Norfolk. Solicitor's Bindmans also acted for Greenpeace.

Picture Editors Notes

[1] Pictures of the defendants at the start of the trial on Tuesday November 13 are available from the Press Association.

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