Fracking courts update: Barton Moss camp eviction and Balcombe protest cases

6th March 2014

Anti-fracking campaigners today challenged an attempt by the commercial landowner Peel to evict them from a 3m strip of land near the iGas exploratory drilling site at Barton Moss in Salford.

Ian R Crane, a former oilfield executive, and Martin Burke, a fulltime Green Party campaigner, brought their case on behalf of about 60 members of the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp, who have been protesting against the iGas operation since November. The camp is on a strip of land alongside Barton Moss Road. This is a privately owned road but also a public right of way.

A fortnight ago, Peel went to court to argue that the right to peaceful protest did not override its right to recover possession of the land it owned. The judge adjourned that case until today to give the campaigners time to prepare their challenge to the case.

This morning, Katherine Holland, the barrister for Peel, argued that the company owned both the road and the strip of land alongside. She said the campaigners did not need to occupy the land to protest about fracking. But the judge questioned whether the camp was on land Peel had let out to a local farmer. If that was the case, only the farmer could apply for an eviction order.

Mr Crane and Mr Burke argued that the eviction contravened articles 8, 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect rights to a home life, and freedoms of expression and assembly. They said the camp was temporary and they would leave the site as soon as iGas stopped drilling.

The case continues tomorrow with submissions from barristers for both sides.

  • A campaigner arrested at the Balcombe anti-fracking protests will have to travel more than 100 miles to attend court tomorrow – even though his case is unlikely to go ahead.

    Nick Ward, who lives in Cambridge, is accused of obstructing the highway and criminal damage. He denies the charges. His trial began at Horsham Magistrates Court on January 2
    nd but ran out of time before he could give evidence and was adjourned until tomorrow.

    But Mr Ward is unlikely to go into the witness box because his advocate, along with other members of the Criminal Bar Association, are taking industrial action over Government plans to cut legal aid.

    This afternoon, Samantha Greenwood, of Kellys, the firm of solicitors representing Mr Ward, asked for the case to be delayed so that he didn’t have to make the journey from Cambridge. But District Judge Ashworth, sitting at Brighton Magistrates Court, said “I do not think the court can take into account an industrial dispute between legal aid lawyers and the legal aid agency. It will have to be up to the trial court tomorrow”.

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