15 May 2024

Sycamore Gap case ‘too serious’ for magistrates’ court, says district judge

15 May 2024

A district judge said that the case of two men accused of felling the famous Sycamore Gap tree was so serious that it must be dealt with at the crown court.

Daniel Graham, 38, of Milbeck Stables, Carlisle, and Adam Carruthers, 31, of Church Street, Wigton, Cumbria, are accused of causing £622,191 worth of damage to the much-photographed tree.

They are also accused of causing £1,144 worth of damage to Hadrian’s Wall, a Unesco World Heritage Site, which was hit by the falling tree when it was felled overnight on September 28.

Both the tree and the wall were said to belong to the National Trust.

Graham entered pleas of not guilty, while Carruthers entered no plea.

Both men walked into the court building with their faces covered but removed their masks for the 15-minute hearing at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court.

At least 25 members of the media were in court for the hearing.

District Judge Zoe Passfield declined jurisdiction, saying: “This case is too serious to be heard in the magistrates’ court.”

The pair will attend Newcastle Crown Court on June 12 for their next hearing and they were both granted unconditional bail in the meantime.

Earlier, the judge said: “I am well aware that feelings are running high in respect to this case. Everyone, however, must remain silent.”

During the hearing, Rebecca Brown, prosecuting, said that the tree was “instantly recognisable”.

She said the cost of the damage to the tree was assessed using the Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees (CAVAT) tool used by local authorities to work out the level of compensation needed to replace a tree.

Ms Brown said factors involved in the calculation involved the size of the tree, its type and the number of people who had access to it.

The lawyer said the loss of the tree had caused “serious distress”, as well as economic and social damage.

The case was “complex” and involved cell site analysis, number plate recognition technology, botany, evaluation of the tree and “image enhancement”, she said.

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