Private nuisance - Not Guilty: 05/05/21

Court date



St Albans

Hearing date:


5 + 6 May 2021

Bench (DJ or JPs)


Judge Dodd

Charged with:


Wrongful Act under Private Nuisance which amounts to trespass, obstructing the pathway for those who wanted to enter and leave the HS2 site, doing acts that would compel others to do the same

Charged under the Trade Unions Act s241(d) and Public Order Act s14

Represented by:


ITN (2 barristers)

Please outline key points in prosecution and defence cases.


Prosecution said that there had been a trespass onto private land, the right of way for entry and exit onto the HS2 site was substantially obstructed which caused a nuisance and disruption to the building works. This amounted to a Private Nuisance and once that was established, they sought to then have a criminal trial under Public Nuisance and Trade Union Law.


Defence was able to establish that there was no trespass, deliveries could have taken place but not sought, people and vehicles were able to enter and exit albeit with great caution and on the assistance of the police. There was no abuse to the officers or HS2 staff. They did not compel others to do the same (the mens rea element of the criminal offence) and that the structures that were put up (the tripods) did not cause a complete obstruction. They said there was no case to answer.


Judge Dodd said that the test case law ‘Galbraith’ which required wrongful act/meaning of watching and setting/ actions to compel the others was not satisfied. On the evidence of the prosecution it was established that there was no trespass and in the hearing the day before, prosecution had taken back the allegation of trespass. She said that under Private Nuisance the definitions were vague. The structures made an inconvenience but did not amount to a substantial obstruction. The evidence was thin and there was no attempt to make deliveries into the HS2 site although she said it could be inferred, it was not proven and she was not prepared to make the assumption. She concluded that on the charges of Private Nuisance there was no case to answer. She said that under the Criminal Violence Act 1871, she saw no evidence of the behaviours amounting to prevent persons or any hostility or persuasion going on. It was a small and peaceful protest. The wooden structures had the purpose of causing inconvenience and to draw attention to the cause but not to obstruct. She said that the mens rea (mental element of a criminal offence) was lacking and that there was a difference between ‘compelling’ and ‘persuading’ which the jury would have to be directed on and that altogether there was not enough evidence of any of those elements to merit a criminal trial. Defendants free to go.

Was defence evidence submitted in writing?


Skeleton arguments were submitted




Did defence witness(es) give evidence in person? Were they cross-examined?


There were 3 witnesses:


Head of Security for HS2

2 high ranking Detective Inspectors from the Police


All three had written statements that were submitted and they were cross examined in person by all 3 barristers (Crown and Defence)

What was the verdict?


No case to answer for Private Nuisance, and as such,

No criminal trial to be heard

What was the sentence?



What costs were awarded?


Cost were applied for

Please add anything else relevant.


It would have been very helpful to have the names of the defendants and the charges. Perhaps be able to contact the defendants  before hand to tell them to expect us.

Badges to show we are part of HS2 - for greater visibility and as a way to break the ice with the defendants as we were meeting as strangers

The police officers in their evidence mentioned ‘Lawful Protest’ many times and were at pains to say they were protecting the protesters as well as HS2 (serving the public at large) which was a surprise and I think it definitely helped the Judge come to a decision as they were clear that they did not ask the defendants to come down or move away before 15h15 and it was demonstrated through the bodycam footage that the protesters were peaceful and largely law abiding (some of the protesters sang in response to being asked to move). The defendants were told that they were going to be arrested when they came down from the structure so there was no negotiations. No police interview took place so there was no transcript (which I thought was unusual)

The court usher said they don't usually get protesters at the court and it was a novel thing to accommodate protest supporters. They mentioned there was a vivisection case but other than that they were very interested in why we were there. This may be a great opportunity to create more public awareness as more cases come to court and this kind of hearing becomes more common place ie there are not enough cases coming to court just yet

We need badges or some sort of way of identifying ourselves to the court staff/defendants/public

Judge Dodd of St Albans is not to be confused with Judge Dodds of Highwickham court when gathering information about their ways of working (profiling). I would say Judge Dodd listened very carefully to the evidence and asked many questions in order to make sure she got it right. She seems to do her job of applying the law very thoroughly and to the letter. I am not sure whether she sympathised but I did detect she was pleased to be able to say ‘no case to answer’ and to let the defendants go.


It made a difference that the structures were only partially on the pathway, that it was peaceful and that there was no verbal abuse to HS2 staff or police. The defendants did not kick up a fuss when arrested. This all meant that it was very difficult to prosecute. It may be an idea to share this information with those that are intending to do similar things to make sure that they concentrate on inconvenience rather than total obstruction.