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Anti-tree felling trio could face jail over breaching injunction

Simon Crump, Benoit Compin and Fran Grace were found in contempt by a judge at the High Court in Sheffield.

Three anti-tree felling campaigners could face jail after they were found in contempt of court for breaching an injunction stopping them going inside work safety zones during controversial protests in Sheffield.

Simon Crump, Benoit Compin and Fran Grace were found in contempt by a judge at the High Court in Sheffield on Thursday following a three-day long hearing of an action brought by Sheffield City Council.

The judge, Mr Justice Males, told the court the trio had breached an injunction obtained by the council last year which prevents protesters entering safety zones set up around trees being felled and also forbids people encouraging or facilitating anyone else to break the injunction, including through social media.

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A group of protesters outside Sheffield Combined Court (Dave Higgens/PA)

He said he would reserve judgment on a fourth defendant – Paul Brooke – as he said there were further legal issues to consider.

The controversial tree-felling programme in Sheffield is currently paused following a fresh series of confrontations earlier this year which saw dozens of police deployed and protesters arrested.

The dispute surrounds a 25-year, £2.2 billion private finance initiative agreement the council signed with contractor Amey.

The contract includes a huge programme to resurface thousands of miles of Sheffield’s pothole-ridden road system and, as part of this, Amey is tasked with maintaining roadside trees.

The council says only a small proportion of the city’s 36,000 street trees are being removed because they are diseased or dangerous, but protesters say many of the trees are being felled simply because their roots are getting in the way of resurfacing methods.

Earlier this year, the council released previously redacted details of the contract at the heart of the dispute which campaigners said showed that 17,500 trees would be earmarked for destruction.

Council leaders said that figure was only a contingency, and not a target, with the likely end total being a maximum of 10,000.

The hearing on Thursday was packed with supporters of the four defendants.

Last year, another protester, Calvin Payne, was given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay £16,000 in costs after he was found to be in breach of the order.

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