Anti-felling campaigners facing jail over alleged injunction breaches take to the stand

One of the alleged breaches happened on Abbeydale Park Rise in March
One of the alleged breaches happened on Abbeydale Park Rise in March

A group of anti-felling campaigners facing a prison sentence for alleged breaches of a high court injunction banning direct action have given evidence in court.

Paul Brooke, Simon Crump, Fran Grace and Benoit Compin are accused of the breaches across various sites in Sheffield between December 2017 and January 2018.

Yaaser Vanderman, representing the council, asked Simon Crump why he refused to leave the area despite being asked repeatedly to do so during an incident on January 16 this year.

Crump said: “If that’s what happened, then that’s what happened. I wasn’t in a position to count, I was more interested in what was going on.”

He added there were many reasons for him refusing to leave the area, including ‘confusion’ about what was going on due to ‘inappropriate’ previous interpretations of the injunction by workers.

Similarly, Fran Grace told the court she was also confused about the parameters of the injunction when she is alleged to have breached it with Crump on December 18 last year.

This was rejected by Mr Vanderman who said Grace admitted to visiting felling sites two or three times a week since November 2016, and was part of a group of people who had studied the injunction and ‘knew what it allowed, and what it didn’t.’

Brooke is accused of breaching the injunction on January 22, when he entered a safety zone after a masked female protester was removed. Brooke told the court he entered the zone to ‘try and stop’ what he perceived to be an assault on the protester.

Compin chose not to give evidence. He accepts breaching the injunction on January 10, but contests a breach alleged to have occurred on March 8.

The injunction prohibits protesters from setting up safety zones around trees set to be felled and also prevents them from encouraging others to break the injunction on social media.

Sheffield City Council was granted the injunction last summer in response to a growing number of protests opposing the council's controversial tree felling programme which aims to replace thousands of the city's 36,000 street trees.

The case continues.