The Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, accused the government of being the flag-waver-in-chief for the fracking industry, after she appeared in court on charges following a protest at Cuadrilla’s site near Balcombe. In a statement made outside Crawley Magistrates Court, she said ministers were ignoring warnings on the use of fossil fuels and were instead offering the fracking industry generous tax breaks and senior roles in government. Click this link to see video of the statement.
Miss Lucas pleaded not guilty today to one charge of obstructing the highway and one charge under the public order act, both arising from the protest on August 19. She faces a trial at Brighton Magistrates Court on March 24th next year, along with four campaigners arrested with her. They are Sheila Menon, 41, of London, Ruth Potts, 39, of Totnes, Ruth Jarman, 50, of Hook, and Josef Dobraszcyk, 22, of Reading. All are charged with the same offences as Miss Lucas. They had appeared in court previously and all pleaded not guilty.
District Judge Fanning said the trial would centre on three issues:
- Whether an order issued by the police to prevent protest at the site was reasonable
- Whether the order had been issued effectively to protestors
- Whether the order breached human rights legislation.
Also in dispute is whether the protest area was on the highway. One of the witnesses likely to give evidence on this point is Simon Greenwood, the owner of the Balcombe estate, which leased land to Cuadrilla for the drilling rig.
Nine other protestors who were arrested on the same day as Miss Lucas are to face charges at a separate trial at Brighton Magistrates Court on March 31st next year.
They are Katie Brown, 33, James Jones, 18, and Luke Evans 34, all of Liverpool, Camille Herreman, 26, and Matthew Whitney, 30, both of Nottingham, Phillip Cawkwell, 52, of Ascot, Chris Seal, 30, of London, Barry Slipper, 66, of Southampton, and Kim Turner, 56, of Brighton. All were charged with obstructing the highway. All but Mr Cawkwell are charged with a public order offence. All deny the offences.
Thanks to bambuser.com for permission to link to its video of Miss Lucas’s statement