The former head of the company exploring for oil near Gatwick failed to appear in court this morning to give evidence at the trial of two anti-fracking campaigners.
Scott Bradley, until January the chief executive of Horse Hill Developments Ltd, had been called as a witness in a trial in Guildford.
His former company is the operator of the well, which has become known as the “Gatwick Gusher” following industry announcements that there could be 50-100bn barrels of oil in the area.
Mr Bradley was due to give evidence for the prosecution in the case of Isabelle Bish, of Portsmouth, and Samantha Gibson, of Southampton. They are accused of obstructing the highway during a lock-on protest outside the Horse Hill site near Horley in Surrey on October 22nd last year. Both deny the charge.
Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, said Mr Bradley had sent an email received last night to say he would not be attending Guildford Magistrates Court. Mr Bradley no longer worked for HHDL and he did not feel it was appropriate for him to give evidence, the court heard.
The trial had previously been adjourned in February, partly because Mr Bradley had not attended.
Laura Vernon-Collier, for Miss Bish and Miss Gibson, asked the court to issue a witness summons for Mr Bradley. She said the defence wanted to question him about whether HHDL intended to carry out unconventional drilling, such as fracking, at the site.
“We have evidence that we want to put to him that contradicts public statements from the company”, she said.
But the district judge, Adrian Turner, refused to allow the summons. He said Mr Bradley’s absence was more likely to prejudice the prosecution than the defence case. Mr Turner also refused the defence request for a witness summons for the documents from HHDL about any possible breaches of permit and licence conditions.
Mr Edwards said Miss Bish and Miss Gibson had locked themselves together through a clay pipe outside the site gate. They were warned they would be arrested if they did not move but they told police they could not release themselves. He showed video recorded by police evidence gatherers of a delivery lorry that was unable to enter the site. After more than four hours, Miss Bish and Miss Gibson were released by specialist police officers and arrested.
Natasha Gibbs, an emergency planning officer for Surrey County Council, showed the court maps which marked the highway, verges and private land outside the site. The prosecution case is that area where Miss Bish and Miss Gibson were locked-on was part of the highway.
The trial continues this afternoon.