Monday, January 10, 2011 8:23 am
The tattooed environmentalist, known to fellow activists as "Flash" because of his supply of ready money, had a secret – he was an undercover policeman who had spent years infiltrating the movement.
At some point, Constable Mark Kennedy had second thoughts about his mission.
British prosecutors on Monday dropped charges against six environmental protesters after their lawyer said Kennedy had offered to help the accused.
Activists and politicians called for an investigation into the clandestine police operation, saying Kennedy had played a key role in organizing and encouraging the protest that led to the arrests.
The defendants' lawyer, Mike Schwarz, said the case raised "serious questions" about the role of the police.
"One expects there to be undercover police on serious operations to investigate serious crime," he said. "This was quite the opposite. This is civil disobedience which has a long history in this country and should be protected."
The defendants were picked up in a controversial sweep of 114 activists in 2009 and charged with plotting to shut down one of Britain's biggest power stations.
Their trial had been due to start Monday, but at the last minute, public prosecutors said new information had come to light that "significantly undermined the prosecution's case."
The Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement that there was "no longer sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction." The charges were formally dropped at a court hearing in Nottingham, central England.
Schwarz said the trial collapsed after attorneys pressed for information about the role of Kennedy, who spent several years inside the protest group. Schwarz said Kennedy had been "willing to speak to me with a view to assisting the defense."
"It is no coincidence that, just 48 hours after we told (prosecutors) our clients could not receive a fair trial unless they disclosed material about Kennedy, they halted the prosecution," he said. …