As everyone is aware, the three day High Court hearing on SCC’s request for injunctions against our supporters ended on Friday.
The Judge stated that he will need ‘up to two weeks’ to come to a decision. As well as the evidence and the complex legal arguments presented in court he has to consider other material submitted by both parties.
The case depends on two inter-related issues: whether actions taken by defendants and others are illegal as argued by SCC and whether all the tree felling work is part of the highway renewal scheme, or part of a separate tree maintenance scheme.
If any tree work is not part of the highway renewal then it is not subject to the Highways Act and SCC’s arguments about legality of protests are not relevant. John Cooper QC, on behalf of the defendants, argued that the secrecy of the contract made it impossible to tell if part or all of the tree work came under the Highways Act.
The Judge had the option to insist that the contract was made available but chose not to, he did say that it would be of no value if he could see it unless the defence could also see it. SCC resisted several requests from John Cooper to make it available. One can read almost anything into the Judge’s position on this, for or against our case.
It was also argued, particularly by Dave Dillner in his evidence, that SCC had never been willing to engage in open constructive discussion with those who oppose the fellings. Although this may have no bearing on the legal case it could be significant in the wider scheme of things that the Judge may consider.
At the close of the hearing the Judge did not impose an interim injunction. John Cooper requested a time limit of 6 months on any damages that might be awarded and no doubt the Judge will consider that.
It was a very gruelling three days for all concerned, especially the defendants. SCC acknowledged that the defendants and other protestors had been peaceful and not confrontational in their approach. John Cooper made the case that this was quite different from many campaigns because it involved ordinary citizens with unblemished records protesting about problems in their own city. The Judge thanked the defendants and their legal team for the very great efforts that had been made to bring their case to court in a remarkably short time.
It is impossible to say which way this will go. The Judge was very impartial and businesslike, at all times friendly and respectful towards all concerned and helpful when any misunderstandings or confusion arose (he was often ahead of all parties in his grasp of the facts).
So our friends have had their three days in court and gave a very good account of themselves. A number of issues were exposed that made SCC uncomfortable and gained good publicity for the campaign regardless of the end result.
And as ever, all this is horribly expensive and there is always the possibility that we may face an appeal which will only add to the costs, so please encourage your friends to make a donation to our legal fund here if they can.
Click here to see a BBC interview with defendant Calvin Payne outside the court