Judge lauds footpath protestor

HE rammed his car into a gate and used a hacksaw to cut through another as a rights of way protest - but today a judge described Peter Turtill as “wholly admirable”.

Naomi Cassidy

HE rammed his car into a gate and used a hacksaw to cut through another as a rights of way protest - but today a judge described Peter Turtill as “wholly admirable”.

Although District Judge David Cooper stopped short of condoning the pensioner's actions, he claimed he had a “great deal of time” for him and gave him a conditional discharge, dubbing him “a lonely fighter for the townsfolk of Ipswich.”

Turtill, 65, of Beatty Road, has an ongoing campaign to reinstate old footpaths in Ipswich and claimed his actions on June last year were to protect the right of way in that area.

In his summing up to a trial at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court yesterday, Judge Cooper said Turtill claimed he had a lawful excuse to cause the damage as he believes the area is a public right of way and was therefore protecting it.

He added: “To my mind he is wholly admirable character. He clearly feels strongly about the dock area.

Most Read

“I have a great deal of time for you.

“Whatever one says about him, he is thoroughly public spirited. He sees himself as a lonely fighter for the townsfolk of Ipswich.”

The court heard how Turtill rammed his car into a closed gate on the Ipswich docks in June 2007. A few days later he was trapped inside a gate in the dock area after a security guard refused to open it, and used a hacksaw to cut through a gate to escape.

Turtill was found guilty of one count of criminal damage and given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £200 in compensation. He was found not guilty of a second criminal damage charge as Judge Cooper said it was not right that security staff did not let him leave.

Speaking after the case, Turtill was happy with the outcome and thanked the judge for his kind words.

He said: “I am pleased. The people will carry on supporting me. I will carry on fighting for the public rights of way to be reinstated in Ipswich. The one on the docks has been used as a public right of way since I was a baby.

“The next stage will be a judicial review.”

Details of the case:-

The court heard that on the June 23, 2007, Turtill drove to Wet Dock area, saying he was exercising his right of way.

On finding a gate closed, it was heard that he decided to use his car as a battering ram, which was shown on CCTV footage.

A few days later, on June 26, he went back to New Cut by the docks and asked a security guard to open the gate for him. When he refused, Turtill produced a hacksaw from his vehicle and sawed through the gate.

District Judge Cooper said that for the first offence, Turtill could have found alternative exits or asked a security guard to open the gate for him.

He said: “Never is it reasonable to deal in violence. If his argument were accepted, then any member of the public could smash through the gates to protect the public right of way. The consequences would be boundless. He should have stuck to the path of righteousness and not taken unilateral and illegal action.”

An application by the Crown Prosecution to impose an anti-social behaviour order banning him from entering the dock area was refused.

The background:-

Turtill claims new developments are jeopardising old footpaths in the town- with planners caring little for their importance.

In November last year he was caged in by builders for his own protection after staging a sit-in protest that brought building work at the Suffolk New College site to a halt.

Suffolk County Council today said that it is continuing to work on producing a map of Ipswich's public rights of way.

Andrew Woodin, Suffolk County Council's Countryside Access leader, said: “We are working on producing a definitive map of Ipswich. This is being treated as a priority. The purpose will be to show the location and status of public rights of way in the town.”

In July Turtill, who is also a member of the Ramblers' Association and Suffolk Rights of Way Limited, was named as a trustee of Open Spaces Society, Britain's oldest conservation charity.

Earlier this year in February, his campaign was given a boost after it was awarded £1,000 from the O2 It's Your Community Awards.