1st May 2014
Poet Simon Welsh, who was arrested for singing outside Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site during last year’s anti-fracking protests at Balcombe, has been acquitted of a public order offence.
Mr Welsh, 35, of High Street, Balcombe, denied he failed to comply with a condition imposed by police under Section 14 of the Public Order Act on September 10th. District Judge Peter Crabtree, sitting at Eastbourne Magistrates Court, said Mr Welsh could not be guilty because he could not be sure Mr Welsh knew about the condition. He also raised difficulties with the legality of the order.
The trial, which lasted three days in March (reports), had been adjourned until this morning for a verdict. The witnesses at the trial included the former Chief Constable of Sussex, Martin Richards, who signed the order that imposed the protest conditions. This required protesters to use a designated area south of the site entrance and on the opposite side of the road. The case hinged on whether Mr Welsh knew about the order and whether the order was lawful.
Today’s verdict means that none of the prosecutions at Balcombe brought under Section 14 of the Public Order Act have been successful. 14 other anti-fracking campaigners, including the MP Caroline Lucas, were acquitted at earlier trials of Section 14 charges.
More to come soon.