Revolt News 136
1. Rosalind Craven's High Court hearing was held in Leeds last Tuesday and Wednesday, 3rd and 4th December. The verdict its due to be given on this Tuesday 10th. I suppose it is "sub judice" so I won't comment on the substance of the case, but just report the process, although there is no jury to influence. The case is NG's application for an injunction to restrain Mrs Craven from resisting NG's entry on to her land, together with her "cross-application" against NG. Judge Behrens had dealt with the case planning conference on 1.11.02; he had refused NG's wishes to have the matter heard and determined well before 6.12.02.
2. However it was a different judge, Judge Hawksworth, who presided at the hearings last week. He clearly had not read the papers and the first morning session was wholly taken up with NG leading him through their case. I attended all day Tuesday and thought Judge Hawksworth showed only slightly restrained impatience. Indeed, I hear that at the end of the hearing he himself said Mrs Craven had done very well under "hostile judiciary interventions". A few other landowners and friends of Mrs Craven also attended, some having given written witness statements.
3. The judge also seemed to think Revolt was closely connected with the case, and I hear some press reports also made the wrong assumption that Revolt had put Mrs Craven up to it. Far from it! Rosalind Craven has done all the research and work to draw up her case and took the position herself. Revolt of course wishes her success, but Revolt has not obtained legal advice or opinion on the legal merits of the case and is not a party to it. I sent an email message to the judge on the Wednesday to clarify the position, and it was read out in court.
4. Rosalind Craven initially had some difficulty in getting the judge to give her documents attention, rather than NG's version of them, but eventually had her day in court and was able to put her new and fundamental points to an independent hearing, which I think was her prime intention.
5. On Thursday 5th December two national meetings were held at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, on "powerlines and health". First the NRPB held a public consultative meeting in the morning, chaired by Lord Robert Winston. That was followed in the afternoon by a conference sponsored by the charity Children with Leukaemia. I would estimate 200 to 300 people attended the morning meeting, but only about 100 in the afternoon.
6. The morning meeting was a panel of experts to hear and respond to views from the public. The panel included Sir Richard Doll, who chairs the NRPB advisory group (AGNIR), and Michael Repacholi from WHO, as well as NRPB members. In opening, Lord Winston said that "we" would draw up revised guidelines after hearing public views. He explained that by "we" he meant that he would stay with this work, but NRPB would draft the guidelines. There wasn't a scientific discussion, as such a large and short forum wasn't conducive to it, but sundry views were put from various people present. The replies recognised the variation between countries in their approaches, but conceded nothing and treated the uncertain hazard as something to be dismissed.
7. The afternoon session was attended by some NRPB and government officials, and for a time by Sir Richard Doll. It included Professor Denis Henshaw's information-packed talk about the range of potential effects and mechanisms, with special attention to much new work on melatonin, which makes potential mechanisms all the more plausible. The paper can be seen at http://www.electric-fields.bris.ac.uk . Maureen Asbury gave details of the people's survey at Trentham, which while not a fully controlled analysis clearly showed dramatically higher incidences of key illnesses near the powerline. I presented a paper on "precaution" which can be seen on http://www.revolt.co.uk .
8. All in all, this was a useful day, and to NRPB's credit that it has taken the initiative, but one which didn't provide for reasoned scientific discussion. As a consultation exercise it can hardly have gathered information systematically but will have provided for a few people to air their views very briefly across a very large hall.