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Extinction Rebellion trial collapses after key police officer witness booked day off

An Extinction Rebellion protest at London City Airport. (PA)

A judge has hit out at the “abject failure” of the Crown Prosecution Service following the collapse of a trial against several Extinction Rebellion protesters.

Five climate activists were accused of gluing themselves to the concourse between London City Airport and its DLR station in October.

They had been due to face trial at City of London Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, but the charges were dismissed after a police officer who was due to be a prosecution witness booked time off.

Deputy District Judge Vincent McDade said: “There has been an abject failure by the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that this case has been properly managed.”

Extinction Rebellion protests brought London to a standstill last year. (PA)

He said the absent police officer was required from the outset.

“Had the CPS acted efficiently and warned the witness as soon as possible after the case management hearing on November 7 this matter would proceed today with that witness giving live evidence,” he said.

The judge said the officer – who made the arrests – was a “vital witness to establish the lawfulness or otherwise of the arrests”.

He said he had “no option but to dismiss all matters against all defendants”.

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The five defendants who faced a charge of aggravated trespass were Claudia Fisher, 57, from Brighton, Phoebe Valentine, 23, from Brighton, David Lambert, 60, from Gloucestershire, Senan Clifford, 59, from Gloucestershire, and John Burrage, 42, from West Wales.

Former chief government scientist Professor Sir David King had been prepared to give evidence at the trial.

Speaking outside the court before he took his seat in the public gallery, he said climate change is “the most important issue humanity has ever had to face up to”.

Afterwards he said the five got off on a technicality, but added: “On the other hand, the judge was relatively sympathetic, I thought.”

Earlier Sir David had said climate change requires “leadership from the very top” and described Brexit as a “distraction”.

He said: “What we are talking about is the most important issue humanity has ever had to face up to. And when I say humanity, I mean all of us. We’re all in this boat together.

“Whatever we do over the next 10 years on climate change, actions that we do, will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years.”

He described the actions of the Extinction Rebellion activists as a “brave attempt” to get the “critically important” issue to the forefront.

After the charges were dismissed, Ms Fisher said: “That did not go how I expected. It was a complete surprise.”

Asked if she plans to get involved in future protests, she said: “Absolutely. Absolutely. This movement is going bigger and bigger. It’s unstoppable.”