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by Euro Reporter
2011-01-11 09:26:47
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Undercover cop 'played key role' in UK power station plot

A trial against six environmental activists accused of conspiring to shut down a power station in the UK has collapsed amid questions over the role of an undercover police officer in infiltrating the group. The six were among 114 people originally arrested in a police raid at a school in Nottingham, central England, in April 2009. The protesters planned to trespass and shut down a coal-fired power station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Nottingham Crown Court heard. Twenty protesters received suspended sentences and conditional discharges earlier this month after they were convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass at the power station. But a spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement that information which had "significantly undermined the prosecution's case" against the six had come to light on January 5.

"In light of this information, the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the case and decided there was no longer sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. We offered no evidence at a hearing this morning, thereby discontinuing the case." Defense lawyer Mike Schwarz said he believed the prosecution's actions were influenced by defense plans to disclose material relating to the discovery that one of those arrested in the raid had been undercover police officer called Mark Kennedy, known to the protesters as Mark Stone. "My clients were not guilty. They did not agree to join in any plan to occupy the power station. The evidence of PC Kennedy presumably confirmed this," Schwarz said in a statement. "Yet that evidence, had it been kept secret, could have led to a miscarriage of justice." Danny Chivers, one of the six defendants, questioned police motives for the raid, telling CNN: "This investigation was not in the public interest. It was political policing -- we had done nothing wrong."

Bradley Day, one of the activists involved in plans to protest at the power station, told CNN that Kennedy had played a "key role in organizing the action," including taking part in a recce to the power station. He also offered to pay more than £700 ($1,090) for the cost of a rental vehicle, he said. But most of those at the school had not been aware of the plan prior to that evening's meeting and so had not actively committed to any illegal action, he said. Day said defense lawyers had become aware of Kennedy's role as an undercover police officer while researching the backgrounds of all 114 who had been initially arrested. In an anonymous statement forwarded to CNN by Chivers, one of the defendants said they had known "Mark Stone" for five or six years and "liked and trusted him."

"Mark was at the meeting for the Ratcliffe action in the late afternoon/early evening of 13/04/09 (so he knew the plan in detail)," the statement said. The defendant said the pair planned to suspend themselves in a hanging climbing tent beneath the power station's coal conveyer. "We were going to climb together and I think he was also driving one of the vehicles," the statement continued.


Bankers cash in as chancellor caves in over bonuses

The government has got itself into a fine old mess on bankers' bonuses. The fault is entirely its own. The coalition agreement, published just eight months ago, declared that "detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector" would be brought forward. There was no commitment on timing but, come on, everybody knew the next bonus round would arrive in January 2011. The government should have defined "unacceptable" by now.

It's no use pleading, as the chancellor, George Osborne, does sometimes, that the bank levy, set to raise £1.25bn this year, is an adequate substitute. The coalition agreement was clear: the bank levy and the bonus proposals were separate items, and there was a pledge to implement both. Nor is it any use David Cameron calling for Royal Bank of Scotland, 84%-owned by the taxpayer, to be "a back marker" on bonuses. RBS is bound to be at the back of the pack because its profits will be lower than those of other big UK banks: the prime minister is appealing for something he knows will happen anyway.

It is also disingenuous to point to the pan-European reform of bonus payments as evidence of change under this government. Reform to the structure of bonuses – limiting the proportion that can be paid up-front in cash – is welcome but the regulators had the matter in hand before last year's election. The coalition's use of the word "unacceptable" seemed to be directed at something else, like the size of bonus pools or the fact that most UK banks are still supping from the Bank of England's special liquidity scheme.


Labour leader seeks extension of bank bonus tax

The leader of Britain's main opposition party has called for the government to extend a tax on bankers' bonuses. Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said Monday it was unfair to cut taxes on banks when ordinary families are now paying higher sales taxes.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's government has scrapped a tax on bonuses imposed by the previous Labour government which raised 3.5 billion pounds ($5.4 billion), replacing it with a tax on bank balance sheets which will raise 2.5 billion pounds annually starting next year.

Resentment over huge bonuses earned by some bankers runs deep in Britain, and the issue has been stirred up by recent reports that the CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland is in line for a cash and shares bonus of 2.5 million pounds.

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