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Campaigner loses appeal

PUBLISHED: 13:16 23 December 2008 | UPDATED: 12:48 09 March 2010

A RIGHTS of way campaigner who smashed his way through dock barriers lost his appeal against conviction but today insists he won a point.

A RIGHTS of way campaigner who smashed his van through dock barriers lost his appeal against conviction but today insists that he won a point.

Peter Turtill was convicted of criminal damage after causing more than £1,340 of damage to security gate 4A at New Cut, Ipswich docks on June 23.

The 65-year-old denied causing criminal damage because he believed the gate was obstructing a public right of way and appeared at Ipswich Crown Court to appeal against the conviction.

When Turtill was convicted earlier this year at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court of causing criminal damage, District Judge David Cooper gave him a 12-month conditional discharge reduced compensation to £200 and dubbed him a “lonely fighter for the townsfolk of Ipswich”.

Alan Wheetman, prosecuting at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday, said Turtill, of Beatty Road, Ipswich, drove his red VW transporter van through the gate. He added that Turtill made no attempt to use the intercom system or his mobile telephone to get the hydraulic barrier raised.

Mr Wheetman said: “He is an activist in the area of the freedom of the highway. He seeks to ensure free passage along all the highways in Ipswich. He said there is a right of way across that land. He felt he had been unlawfully imprisoned and was quite happy to drive his van through that barrier and continue on his way.”

Turtill fired his legal team as he said they did not understand right of way law and defended himself.

He said: “I won the argument as Suffolk County Council's Jane Stevenson produced a report and backed it in the witness box saying that the 40ft wide rights of way exist all around the dock.

“I do regret the conviction standing but I believe I got a result for the people of Ipswich.”

Mr Wheetman told the court that whether or not there actually was a right of way through the gate was not an issue, it was whether Turtill honestly believed it was a right of way and if so he may have a defence against causing criminal damage to the gate.

Mr Recorder Gordon QC said although he and two justices were convinced Turtill honestly believed there was a right of way, they also thought his actions were unreasonable.

Mr Gordon said: “He wanted to make a stand of principle. The photos we saw had a degree of boastfulness and campaign flourish.”

Turtill was told to pay £100 of the £800 prosecution costs after he told the court he was “a pensioner and skint”.

n. What do you think of Turtill's actions? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk


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