THE FIRST of six trials involving anti-link road campaigners started at Hastings Magistrates Court this week.
Nineteen-year-old Dominic Langford from Cardiff, arrested on January 8 after spending five hours at the top of a telegraph pole in Crowhurst Road, where tree-felling was taking place, was the first to appear.
He was charged with wilfully obstructing a highway, and resisting arrest.
His trial, presided over by district judge Peter Crabtree, began on Monday (September 2) and was still underway on Thursday at the time of going to press.
Jonathan Edwards for the prosecution argued that Langford’s actions led to the police having to close the road over fears for the safety of the defendant and other road users, and that when he did eventually come down from the pole, he made as if to run away from police.
Mr Edwards said: “The police were faced with a situation that had been created by this defendant that from their perspective was a grave situation.
“His intentions were unknown to the police, and his capabilities were unknown to the police.”
The court heard how Langford scaled the pole at around 1.30pm and repeatedly ignored instructions given to him by officers to come down.
It was after 6pm by the time he came down from the pole, and was grabbed by police officers. In what was described in court as a “melee” other protestors attempted to free Langford from the grip of police officers. Officers also said that Langford tensed his arms to avoid being handcuffed.
Taking to the witness stand on Wednesday (September 5), Langford, who pleaded not guilty to both charges on January 21, said: “I went to see what was happening and express my disagreement with it.”
He added that he had aimed to stay until work stopped for the day in order to make his point and get media attention.
He said that he felt safe on top of the pole as he had been training in free-running and parkour for the last five years, and claimed that he was unable to hear anything said to him by police over the noise of the tree-felling machinery.
The case for the defence was expected to include arguments that Langford was not in fact causing an obstruction, there was no need for police to close the section of Crowhurst Road, there was insufficient evidence that arrest was necessary, and insufficient evidence of resistance of arrest.
Among the 19 defendants on trial over the coming weeks are grandmothers and students, local residents and supporters from further afield.