Prosecutors drop final Balcombe anti-fracking trial

9th May 2014

The last trial arising from the anti-fracking protests outside Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site at Balcombe has been dropped by prosecutors.

The Crown Prosecution Service case announced today it was discontinuing the case against Beaujolais Bulman and Maria Sanders.

Mr Bulman (26), of Lancaster, had been charged with assaulting PC Llewellyn on August 19th last year. Miss Sanders (25), of London, was charged with assaulting PC Tourell on the same day. Both denied the charges.

Their two-day trial had been due to go ahead on April 15th at Brighton Magistrates Court but it was adjourned until September 15th.

A key part of the case concerned a condition on protests imposed by police under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. The defence case had been that the order was not legal and, as a result, police officers were not acting in the lawful execution of their duty.

The legality of the Section 14 order has arisen in two previous cases, including that of the MP Caroline Lucas. But when Mr Bulman and Miss Sanders first came to court no ruling has been made on the order. Because of this, the prosecution would have had to call the police officer who recommended the order, Superintendent Jane Derrick, and the officer who approved it, Temporary Chief Constable Giles York.

Deputy District Judge Claire Pithie decided that with the additional witnesses the case could not be heard in full in the time allocated. She decided not to hear part of the case because Miss Sanders was eight and a half months pregnant.

Two days later, on April 17th, District Judge Tim Pattinson ruled in Miss Lucas’s case that the order was unlawful. Acquitting Miss Lucas and four other anti-fracking campaigners, he said the senior police officer who issued the conditions was not authorised to do so, he was wrong to issue them and they were so vague and unclear as to be meaningless.

Today’s decision almost brings to an end the cases arising from the Balcombe protests. Two appeals against guilty verdicts have been scheduled for June and July and four other cases are waiting for appeal dates.

A total of 126 people were arrested at Balcombe. Police brought 114 charges. Of these 29 resulted in convictions.



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