Dates have been set for the first trials of anti-fracking campaigners, arrested following protests outside Cuadrilla’s exploration site at Balcombe during the summer. A hearing at Crawley Magistrates Court today (2/10/2013) reviewed the cases of about 60 campaigners. All deny the charges against them. The court set 12 separate dates for trials involving nearly 30 defendants and adjourned more than 30 other cases.
The court heard that cases against the former chair of Lewes District Council and model, Marina Baker, and 21-year-old Ben Lucas have been dropped. Three more people, including the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, have yet to appear in court and plead to the charges against them.
The first group of campaigners arrested at Balcombe will stand trial on January 7th at Brighton Magistrates Court. They are charged with obstructing the highway on July 26th, the second day of the protest. The campaigners are: Michael Atkins, 37, of Westbury; Frances Crack, 31, of Cardiff; Paul Deacon, 50, of Worthing; Samantha Duncan, 30, of Brighton; Ezra Lynch, 31, of Lewes; Mark Mansbridge, 51, of Lewes; Richard Millar, 30, of Brighton; Justin Preece, 44, of Pontypridd; Marcin Swiercz, 35, of London; Nancy Walker, 25, of London; and Ian Freeston, 52, of Lewes. Mr Freeston also faces a charge brought under trades union legislation. Two juveniles also arrested on the same day and charged under trades union legislation will stand trial at a youth court on November 6th.
Balcombe poet, Simon Welsh, and Daniel Ashman, of Wigston, in Leicestershire, will stand trial on January 14th at Brighton Magistrates, charged with a public order offence. They were arrested during one of the Belt It Out Balcombe events in September.
Natalie Hynde, the daughter of The Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde and Ray Davies of The Kinks, will be tried on December 18th at Brighton Magistrates Court on an offence of trespassing in the proximity of a railway. Another case against her was brought under trades union legislation and was adjourned for legal review.
A further 12 people will stand trial on dates between November 25th and January 29th at either Brighton or Horsham magistrates courts.
Some of the trials arranged today will involve more than six witnesses and are scheduled to take up to four days. Four district judges, as well as magistrates, will be hearing the cases.
As well as the trial dates set at the hearing, more than 30 cases were adjourned for further legal argument, prompting criticism from District Judge Michael Snow. He said: “This is chaotic and needs to be brought into a very firm line”. Lydia Dagostino, defending many of the protestors, said some of her clients had seen the charges against them changed three times.