Sycamore Gap tree case moved to crown court as two men accused of felling famous landmark

A district judge has said that the case of two men accused of cutting down the famous Sycamore Gap tree is too serious for magistrates' court, and must be dealt with at the crown court.

Daniel Graham, 38, of Milbeck Stables, Carlisle, and Adam Carruthers, 31, of Church Street, Wigton, Cumbria, are accused of causing over half a million pounds worth of damage to the much-loved tree.

They are also accused of causing £1,144 worth of damage to Hadrian's Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was hit by the falling tree after it was cut down overnight on 28 September.

Both the historic tree and wall are said to belong to the National Trust.

Graham entered pleas of not guilty, and Carruthers entered no plea.

As both men walked into court, they covered their faces with a balaclava and mask, but removed them for the 15-minute hearing at Newcastle Magistrates' Court where at least 25 members of the media were in court.

District Judge Zoe Passfield declined jurisdiction over the case, saying: "This case is too serious to be heard in the magistrates' court."

Now, the two men will attend Newcastle Crown Court on 12 June for their next hearing after they were both granted unconditional bail.

Earlier, the judge said: "I am well aware that feelings are running high in respect to this case. Everyone, however, must remain silent."

During the hearing, Rebecca Brown, prosecuting, said the tree was "instantly recognisable".

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She said that the cost of damage to the tree, £622,191, was calculated using the Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees (CAVAT) tool used by local authorities to work out the level of compensation needed to replace a tree.

Ms Brown said factors involved in the calculation involved the size of the tree, its type and the number of people who had access to it.

The lawyer claimed the loss of the tree had caused "serious distress", as well as economic and social damage.

The case was "complex" and involved cell site analysis, number plate recognition technology, botany, evaluation of the tree and "image enhancement", she said.