Protester in bear costume cleared

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A PROTESTER who stormed the offices of a major energy company dressed as a polar bear has been acquitted of a breach of the peace allegation.

Natasha Smith, 24, was found not guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after Sheriff Roderick MacLeod ruled prosecutors had not proved that she acted illegally.

Miss Smith, of Bristol, was part of a group of more than 50 Greenpeace activists who raided Cairn Energy’s offices in Edinburgh’s Lothian Road in July this year.

The protesters occupied the firm’s property because they objected to Cairn’s plans to drill for oil off the coast of Greenland.

The fancy dress fan was arrested and charged with placing Cairn Energy staff in a state of fear and alarm with her actions.

On the first day of the trial, the court heard from Pc Alan Banks, 34, who said protesters sang Bear Necessities from the Jungle Book during the occupation. He said that they had “great fun”.

Yesterday, Sheriff MacLeod said he agreed with the notion that the environmentalists weren’t acting in a threatening fashion.

He said: “I’m not prepared to hold that people who have entered a building dressed in unusual costumes constitutes threatening behaviour. I don’t believe that behaviour constitutes a threat in itself.”

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard last week how police called to the Cairn Energy HQ shot film of the demonstrators chained to desks as members of staff worked on beside them.

Footage shown to the court showed one woman, who had locked herself to table with handcuffs, reading a magazine with her free hand.

Meanwhile, a pal dressed as a furry animal waved happily into the camera.

Other activists had occupied an office within the complex and were playing around with its blinds.

This prompted Pc Banks – who shot the footage – to say: “They’re having great fun playing with the blinds.”

The court also heard how Lothian and Borders officers told protesters that those of them who released themselves from their handcuffs and chains could go quietly.

Miss Smith’s solicitor, Jim Brady, said his client did unchain herself – but was still arrested by police.

After hearing evidence yesterday, Mr Brady asked Sheriff MacLeod to dismiss the case.

The sheriff agreed – and told Miss Smith she was free to leave the court.

Sheriff MacLeod added: “The protesters were anxious not to place anybody under a state of fear and alarm. I therefore feel that I must return a verdict of not guilty.”