Trial date set for two men accused of felling Sycamore Gap tree

<span>Adam Carruthers leaves Newcastle crown court, where he pleaded not guilty. The judge granted conditional bail to both defendants and set a trial date for 3 December.</span><span>Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty</span>
Adam Carruthers leaves Newcastle crown court, where he pleaded not guilty. The judge granted conditional bail to both defendants and set a trial date for 3 December.Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty

A trial date has been set for two men accused of felling the famous Sycamore Gap tree in Northumberland.

Daniel Graham, 38, of Carlisle, and Adam Carruthers, 31, of Wigton, have been accused of causing criminal damage to the tree and to Hadrian’s Wall.

Carruthers, wearing a suit, white shirt and green tie, pleaded not guilty to the two charges when he appeared at Newcastle crown court on Wednesday. He was represented by the barrister Andrew Gurney.

The co-defendant, Graham, was “unavoidably detained”, according to his barrister Christopher Knox, and did not appear at the hearing. Graham has, at a magistrates court, previously pleaded not guilty to the two charges.

At the 30-minute trial preparation hearing, the recorder of Newcastle, Judge Paul Sloan KC, set a trial date of 3 December. The case is expected to last 10 days. There will be pre-trial hearings on 27 August and 5 November.

The judge granted conditional bail to both defendants.

The two men are accused of causing criminal damage worth £622,191 to the 15-metre tall tree.

They are also accused of causing £1,144 worth of damage to Hadrian’s Wall, a 1,900-year-old monument and a Unesco world heritage site. It is alleged the Roman wall was hit by the falling tree when it was felled overnight on 28 September 2023.

Both the tree and the wall are in the ownership of the National Trust. The tree was on the site of an ancient monument and a national park as well as a world heritage site.

It was planted about 130 years ago by the landowner John Clayton, who was seen as a visionary because he planted it as a landscape feature knowing he would not see it in his lifetime.

The tree became even more famous after it featured in the 1991 Kevin Costner film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

The National Trust and its partners are still working on plans for what might, if anything, be put in its place. The most popular suggestion from the public has been to commemorate the tree with an artwork or sculpture.

There are hopes the tree will live on after more than 100 seeds and 40 saplings were successfully propagated from it after it was felled. Last month King Charles became the first recipient of a Sycamore Gap seedling which, when it has matured into a sapling, will be planted in Windsor Great Park.

Plans to plant further seeds and saplings will be announced later in the year, the National Trust said, and will include planting in Northumberland.

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