4th April 2014
Section 14 trial: Day five
Nine anti-fracking campaigners arrested at a sit-down protest outside Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site at Balcombe deliberately ignored police asking them to move, Brighton Magistrates Court heard this morning.
Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, summed up his arguments after more than four days of evidence. The court had heard that the group sat near the site gate for more than five hours. Four members locked their arms into tubes to form a square. Others sat inside or next to the square. The campaigners are all charged with obstructing the highway on August 19th. Eight are also charged with failing to comply with an order to move to a designated protest area, imposed by police under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. They all deny the charges.
Mr Edwards said he accepted that the campaigners had sincerely held views about fracking. But he said the police had made patient and repeated requests for them to move. “The defendants had no good reason or lawful authority to remain”, he said. “They made no efforts to engage with the police or to inform themselves about the situation they were in.”
“They were intent on remaining there for as long as they could”, Mr Edwards said. “They chose to ignore the attentions of the police. They made no effort to negotiate a point to leave. Their conduct was not reasonable or lawful.”
Mr Edwards said the group “deliberately blanked the police” when asked to move. It was obvious that the police were going to move the group, he said. “They deliberately chose to ignore the police, thinking if we cannot hear what you are saying we cannot hear what you want us to do.”
The prosecution argued that willful politeness was not a defence. Mr Edwards said: “I suggest that the defendants chose not to cooperate because it did not serve their purpose to be corralled into the area of the police’s choosing.”
The court had seen film recorded by police evidence gatherers which showed the group singing ‘We shall not be moved’. Mr Edwards said the volume and intensity of singing increased when police tried to speak to members of the group. “That song has an obvious meaning and a clear message to police: we are not going anywhere”, he said. “They were defiantly intent on drowning out the officers” he said.
“They have stuck to the same story”, Mr Edwards said. “They say they heard nothing…It is incredible when you look at the video. It is a convenient fiction.”
Mr Edwards suggested that the campaigners knew more about the actions of the police than they are letting on. “Some of them believed they had a right to protest and could see no reason why the situation had changed and that the police were not entitled to move them.”
He also suggested that it was “incomprehensible” that the campaigners did not know the entrance was part of the highway. And he argued that it was not reasonable for them campaigners to block the entrance. “They remained in situ for many hours”, he said. “There were alternative methods available to them. There were alternative places available.”
The case continues with summing up the defence.