Eco-warrior Swampy has denied an aggravated trespass charge over a treetop protest against the HS2 rail line.
Swampy, real name Daniel Hooper, is accused of climbing trees and staying in Jones’ Hill Wood in Wendover, near Aylesbury, Bucks, with other protestors for four days.
The 47-year-old was pictured camped 30ft up a tree last month in a protest against the planned felling of the woodland to make way for the controversial high speed rail line.
The woodland is one of 20 sites that have been identified as targets for clearance and ground works by HS2, with two-thirds of the 4.5-acre site due to be dug up.
Swampy, real name Daniel Hooper, is accused of climbing trees and staying in Jones’ Hill Wood in Wendover, near Aylesbury, Bucks, with other protestors for four days
The Government-backed rail project now costing around £88 billion, is due to connect London with the West Midlands, cutting through Bucks and Oxfordshire.
Phase 2 is due to then link Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to York and Leeds.
In Buckinghamshire, the group of activists allegedly refused to leave the site when asked to do so by police.
At High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court today, Hooper, of Cwmdu, Llandeilo, Wales, appeared alongside four other demonstrators.
Alice Crawshawe, 21, of Fallowfield, Manchester, and Anne Kahn, 22, of no fixed address, also appeared in person with Hooper.
Wearing a dark green zip top and blue jeans, Hooper sat in the dock next to Crawshawe who wore a white coat and red top.
The 47-year-old was pictured camped 30ft up a tree last month in a protest against the planned felling of the woodland to make way for the controversial high speed rail line
Kahn sat at the other end of the dock to maintain social distance and had a blue surgical mask on during the hearing.
All the defendants spoke only to confirm their names, dates of birth and addresses as well as enter their not guilty pleas to one charge of aggravated trespass on October 8.
Veronica Tombolan was due to appear in person, but is currently self-isolating after recently returning from Germany.
Simon Navas, who represented all five defendants, indicated Tombolan would enter a not guilty plea.
Ella Russell was also charged with aggravated trespass and appeared in court at the same time, but did not sit in the dock.
The 26-year-old of Lee, Hemel Hempstead, sat in the public gallery wearing a red scarf over her face as she entered her not guilty plea to a charge of aggravated trespass.
All five defendants’ charges relate to allegations they refused to leave the woodland after being directed to do so by police.
Mr Navas raised the possibility that there could be a problem with the order given to leave the site as it may not have been made by the most senior police officer at the scene.
He told the court: ‘It seems to me that the officer giving the direction to leave the site was a PC.
‘In so far as the legislation is concerned, it tends to be the most senior officer, but it would seem the direction was given by a police constable.
‘It’s extremely unlikely there would not be a more senior officer than a PC at a demonstration such as this.
‘But the main issue is whether there was any basis for the order to be made at all and that they were there lawfully.’
Lauren Dodd, prosecuting, said the order may have actually been made by an Inspector.
Video taken by the protesters as well as CCTV and body worn cameras from police will be viewed during the two-day trial, the court heard.
District Judge Tan Ikram released all five defendants on conditional bail, provided they do not go into a HS2 site or building and do not ‘interfere with the workings’ of any HS2 work.
He told the defendants after considering the terms of their bail: ‘In relation to your trial that will take place over two days.
HS2 protesters occupy the treetops in Jones Hill Wood, where author Roald Dahl took inspiration for his book, The Fantastic Mr Fox
‘If you are late or do not show up that will constitute an offence in itself and it might still go ahead without you.’
But he later added: ‘There is a right to protest and a right to freedom of speech.
‘Somebody who lawfully protests will be protected by these courts – lawful being the operative word.’
A trial date was set for May 27 and 28 next year at High Wycombe Magistrates Court.
Another demonstrator, Neil Fox, was due to appear but was not present in court as he was also self-isolating because a family member had tested positive for coronavirus.
He was charged with obstructing a constable during the same protest and also entered a not guilty plea via his solicitor.
The court heard he is pleading not guilty, claiming his right to lawfully protest the construction of the train line that has drawn a series of protests along its route that opponents claim is destroying ancient woodland.
Fox will face a separate trial on May 24.
Another five defendants are also due to face trespassing charges at later dates.
Swampy first hit the headlines in 1996, when he spent seven days and seven nights living in a tunnel dug by campaigners to stop the £50 million A30 dual carriageway link road in Devon.
The dad-of-four briefly re-emerged last year to join an Extinction Rebellion protest in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where he obstructed access to an oil refinery by attaching himself to a concrete block.