The Crown Prosecution Service says it still intends to continue with a second case against Sheffield tree protesters, despite dropping charges against two campaigners moments before a court hearing yesterday morning.
Public order charges against Jenny Hockey, aged 70, and Freda Brayshaw, 72, were discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service at the eleventh hour due to a ‘lack of evidence’.
Mrs Hockey and Mrs Brayshaw had been accused of preventing lawful work to fell trees outside their homes in Rustlings Road during a stand-off with police officers and contractor Amey in November.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman confirmed this afternoon that it still intends to proceed with its case against protesters Simon Crump, aged 56, of Heeley, and Calvin Payne, 44, of Nether Edge.
A spokesman said: "This is an entirely separate case and not affected by this decision."
The pair were arrested in November on Marden Road, Nether Edge, while protesting against the felling of a mature London plane tree.
They were charged with ‘hindering’ workers from council contractor Amey which they deny.
They are next due to appear at Sheffield Magistrates' Court on March 9.
During yesterday's hearing, when the charges were formally dropped, Mrs Hockey and Mrs Brayshaw were awarded court costs of £150 each from the CPS.
Following the hearing at Sheffield Magistrates' Court, the CPS were accused of wasting public funds.
Mrs Brayshaw said she was angry that public money had been wasted on bringing them to court.
She said: “I’m very angry about the waste of public money, and relieved of course, that we’ve been awarded costs. I think someone should have thought this through far more carefully, both when they arrested us and when they decided to give us a charge.”
Lawyer Helen White, who represented Mrs Hockey and Mrs Brayshaw in court, said she was extremely surprised charges had been brought against the protesting pensioners in the first place.
She said: “No-one was more surprised than me when I was told that charges had been brought against my clients.
“I was even more surprised when they were originally arrested under trade union laws.
“They were then charged with public order offences when there was no evidence whatsoever of anyone using threatening behaviour or language.
“The charges were dropped, essentially, due to a lack of evidence.
“This has been a complete waste of public funds and I’m glad to see that common sense has prevailed.”
Commenting after the charges were dropped yesterday, a Sheffield City Council spokesman said: "We would like to reiterate our apology for the way trees were taken down on Rustlings Road, and we respect people’s right to protest.”