Judge in Caroline Lucas case considers whether there is a case to answer

27th March 2014
Caroline Lucas trial: day 4 – afternoon evidence

The judge at the trial of Caroline Lucas will decide overnight whether to dismiss one of the charges against her and four other anti-fracking campaigners.

Defence barristers at Brighton Magistrates Court argued this afternoon that there was no case to answer on the charge that all the campaigners breached a condition imposed by police under Section 14 of Public Order Act. The Deputy Chief Constable of Sussex had signed an order on August 16th last year that required demonstrators at the Balcombe anti-fracking protests to use a designated protest area. Miss Lucas, Ruth Potts, Ruth Jarman, Sheila Menon and Josef Dobraszczyk were arrested on August 19th for allegedly not complying with the order. They deny the offence.

Tom Wainwright, for Miss Lucas and Miss Potts, argued that the Public Order Act distinguished between an on-going protest and one that was expected to happen. He said the police had sought to subvert the intention of the legislation by conflating both parts in its Section 14 order. Mr Wainwright also said the wording of the condition was ambiguous and the map given to protesters was unclear. North was at the bottom and a broad white line marked the boundary of the designated area.

“In order to be valid, the order has to be clear and enforceable so that it could be complied with”, Mr Wainwright said. He said the Deputy Chief Constable’s order did not state the reasons why it was needed, and it should have done.

Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, argued that the description of the designated area was clear, there was an aerial photograph to accompany it and the boundary was shown clearly.

District Judge Tim Pattinson said he would give his ruling on the Section 14 charge in the morning. Whatever his decision, the five campaigners still face a charge of obstructing the highway, which they also deny.  They are expected to begin their evidence tomorrow but a verdict is not likely this week.

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