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Charges against Andy Norman dropped – Thimbleberry Music Festival Is Back On

A MUSIC festival organiser said last night the “show is back on”after a crown court case against him was dropped.

Andrew Norman, 52, was preparing for a potential trial later this year, having been accused of permitting his land to be used for the smoking of cannabis during the last Thimbleberry Music Festival, in late September. Mr Norman, who denied the charge, was expecting to face trial in June and cancelled the first of this year’s proposed biannual open-air festivals at Thimbleberry Hill Farm, near Stanhope, in Weardale, County Durham.

But he walked free from Durham Crown Court yesterday after the prosecution offered no evidence and Judge Christopher Prince recorded a formal not guilty verdict.

It followed earlier dialogue between the judge, Crown Prosecution lawyer Mark Giuliani and Norman’s barrister Chris Baker.

Judge Prince asked what constituted “premises” in the charge, and Mr Giuliani said it would appear to have been a field.

Mr Baker said Mr Norman had followed Government guidance for staging such events by having a “chill out room” on site and making water available to festival- goers to prevent dehydration.

Following consideration of the prosecution case, Mr Giuliani said he had misgivings over the term “premises” in the Misuse of Drugs Act.

“Had this been looked at logiically, it could never have been committed from the magistrates’ court and I question whether the committal was valid,” he said.

“It would be improper if an invalidly committed case should proceed and therefore it should be discharged.”

Speaking after the case, Mr Norman said: “It’s a big relief. I’ve had everything on hold having been under the threat of prosecution for the past six months.

“I’ve tried to do everything right, employing professional people throughout, and complying with Health and Safety Executive ‘best practice’ for outdoor music events.”

Mr Norman now hopes to recover £3,513.70 takings from the last festival, confiscated by police as potential proceeds of crime, to pay for security and toilets.

He said he hopes the planning for the September festival can now proceed.

The festival, in its eighth year, is seen as a platform for unsigned bands and attracts music fans and acts from across the country.

By Bruce Unwin