26th March 2014
Caroline Lucas trial: day three – morning evidence
Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site at Balcombe became short of food and water during the anti-fracking protests at the time of the Reclaim the Power Climate Camp last August, a court heard this morning.
Leon Jennings, Cuadrilla’s health safety, security and environment director, said because the road was blocked by demonstrations, deliveries of food and fresh water could not get through and waste could not be removed “Sanitation units and water supplies deteriorated rapidly causing a welfare issues on site”, he said.
Mr Jennings was giving evidence on day three of the trial of five anti-fracking demonstrators, including the MP Caroline Lucas. He said Cuadrilla had decided to stop drilling during the climate camp between August 16th and August 20th. Instead, the company was carrying out data analysis and equipment maintenance. Staffing was reduced but the number of security guards was increased, in case demonstrators got into the site, he said.
“We had a food problem” Mr Jennings said. “We had 27 guards and 10 staff – keeping food and water topped up was extremely challenging.”
Mr Jennings was asked about who was on site on August 19th, the day that Miss Lucas and the other campaigners were arrested. Yesterday the court heard about a police note of a teleconference between Cuadrilla and senior officers at 8am that day. The police note said Mr Jennings and the rig manager were the only people on site. Mr Jennings said the police must have understood because he was not on site on August 19th.
Mr Jennings also described what he called daily insults and abuse that he and his staff endured generally during the operation at Balcombe. He said not all the demonstrators shouted at staff when they went in and out of the site. But he added: “I personally experienced being called ‘Baby killer’ on several occasions while attending the site.” He said comments such as “How do you feel working for a company that is going to give everyone cancer” were very frequent.
Miss Lucas, 53, of Brighton is on trial along with Josef Dobraszczyk, 22, of Bristol, Ruth Potts, 39, of Totnes, Ruth Jarman, 50, of Hook, and and Sheila Menon, 41, of London. They all deny obstructing the highway and failing to comply with a police condition imposed under Section 14 of the Public Order Act on August 19th last year.
The case continues this afternoon.