25th June 2014
A veteran environmental campaigner will have to wait another three months to challenge convictions arising from the Balcombe anti-fracking protests.
Nick Ward, 52, of Cambridge, expected to appeal this morning against guilty verdicts for obstructing the highway and criminal damage. But his case at Hove Trial Centre didn’t get underway because there was not enough time to complete it in one day. The appeal was adjourned until September 10th, almost a year after Mr Ward’s arrest.
Judge Anthony Niblett apologised to Mr Ward for the delay, adding “These cases are of great public importance.” But he said: “It is preferable for the court to hear all the facts and the legal submissions on the same day so that all matters are fresh in our minds.”
Judge Niblett recommended that one judge should hear all the appeals against convictions arising from the Balcombe protests.
Mr Ward is challenging the verdicts reached in March by District Judge Adrian Turner sitting at Horsham Magistrates Court. That court heard how Mr Ward was arrested on 20th September last year after walking his aunt’s springer spaniel in front of a lorry delivering to Cuadrilla’s drilling site at Balcombe. Mr Ward said in court that he had always kept moving and that a police officer had told him he should not have been arrested. A video of the incident shown to the court lasted two minutes and 20 seconds. The court also heard that while Mr Ward was being held at Crawley Police Station, he wrote anti-fracking slogans in pencil on the cell wall.
Mr Ward denied both charges. But DJ Turner said the prosecution for obstruction was reasonable on the grounds of public safety and preventing disorder. On damage to the cell wall, the district judge said it was trivial but could not be lawful.
This is the fourth time Mr Ward has appeared in court. The first day of his original trial ran out of time. The second coincided with a lawyers’ day of action and was abandoned. On the third, when the verdict was reached, Mr Ward defended himself because his barrister was not available.
Mr Ward’s appeal is the second of those arising from the Balcombe protests to be adjourned without hearing any evidence. The case of Keyon Bayandor, originally scheduled for April at Lewes Crown Court, was adjourned because a police witness was not available. It will now be heard on 18th July. Another appeal by Kaity Squires and Timothy Harris is due to go ahead at the end of August. Appeals by two other anti-fracking campaigners, due to be heard this week, were withdrawn.