18th July 2014
An anti-fracking campaigner accused of shoulder-barging a police officer at last year’s protests at Balcombe has failed to overturn his conviction.
Keyon Bayandor, 26, from Bristol, was challenging the verdict at a trial in January where he was found guilty of obstructing PC Michael Butler outside Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site.
Today Mr Bayandor told Lewes Crown Court, sitting in Brighton, he was not physically capable of shoulder-barging because of previous injuries and a current medical condition. But this afternoon, Recorder Samantha Leigh said she found PC Butler a credible witness and upheld the conviction.
The case dates back to August 1st last year when police were escorting a lorry into Cuadrilla’s site. The court saw video footage which showed what happened when an arrow-head shape of police officers met a line of campaigners. Police officers could be seen pushing campaigners and campaigners leant back against them.
PC Butler told the court that Mr Bayandor had shoulder-barged him three times and ignored warnings to move. Mr Bayandor said past injuries to a leg and knee, as well as the side-effects of diabetes, meant he was “physically incapable” of doing this. He said he had not intentionally made contact with PC Butler – and if he had it was an accident because of the number of people in the crowd.
Stephen Knight, for Mr Bayandor, suggested that his client was arrested because he stood out to police. They thought he was a ring-leader because he had a loud hailer. Mr Knight added that during a police interview, Mr Bayandor was asked only about his role in the protests, not about the alleged offence.
Mr Knight argued that there was not enough time for Mr Bayandor to have shoulder-barged the officer three times, given that the incident lasted two or three minutes. He also said statements from people who knew Mr Bayandor showed that this was out of character.
But Judge Leigh said Mr Bayandor had obstructed the police officer and committed an unlawful act. “We are sure in relation to this matter that PC Butler was right that you struck him in the course of his lawful duties”. This was a “blip” in Mr Bayandor’s behaviour, she said.
“We accept there were a lot of people around and we can see the protesters around the lorry. This was a very fast and short sequence of events.” Judge Leigh also agreed that Mr Bayandor stood out because of his long hair and because he was holding the megaphone.
“We accept the appellant has honestly-held believes about fracking.” He had a right to participate in a protest, she said, but he was not prevented from doing this. She added: “This is a qualified right. The police are required to act where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting an offence is being committed.”
Judge Leigh said Mr Bayandor would have to pay no costs for the appeal because of the “important principles that were here”. She also reduced the length of the original conditional discharge imposed by the earlier trial from 12 months to nine.