Breaking: Not guilty verdicts in the Horse Hill anti-fracking protest trial

Redhill magistratds

Nine anti-fracking campaigners have been found cleared of obstruction following protests outside the Horse Hill exploration site near Gatwick Airport.

District judge William Ashworth, sitting at South East Surrey Magistrates Court in Redhill, said he accepted that local drivers would have been delayed by the protests but he said:

“I cannot say that I am sure that you went too far”

The verdicts were met with applause, cheers and shouts of “You’re a good man.”

The charges relate to protests outside the Horse Hill exploratory drilling site during flow testing in February and March 2016.

Isabelle Bish, Thomas Burke, Paddy Horne, Stephen Jackson, Neil Lamony, David Powter, Daniel Nye, George Stubbs and another man all denied obstructing the highway during protests to slow down lorries arriving at the site or leaving.

DrillOrDrop has chosen not to identify the ninth defendant after he said he had received personal physical threats from people who he said called themselves investors in one of the Horse Hill companies.

During a week-long trial, the prosecution argued that the protests caused delays to road users and were therefore unreasonable and unlawful.

But the defence teams argued the protests were proportionate and did not break the law. They pointed to evidence that police commanders gave inconsistent guidance on what level of protest would be tolerated. They also said police officers were inconsistent in the way they applied a five-step warning system before protesters were arrested.

Full report

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19 replies »

  1. But some of them appear to have been found have been found guilty before. They must be getting better at it. Serial protestors? probably sponging off the State.
    Isabella Bish, no fixed abode (what a surprise!) Miss Bish and Miss Gibson were each ordered to pay a fine of £75, a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £200.


    Thomas Burke:

    FIVE anti-fracking campaigners, who were found guilty of obstructing a public highway during protests at the Crawberry Hill site near Walkington, are considering an appeal.

    Samantha Atkins, Sarah Hockey, Thomas Burke, Richard Howarth and Christopher Ridden’s peaceful protest became unlawful on August 2


    Daniel Nye:


    • They don’t ‘appear’ to have been found guilty before Paul, they really were, so it’s great to see that the right to peaceful protest is now being acknowledged by the legal system. Encouraging isn’t it 😉 Well done everyone, so glad you received the verdicts you deserved. Ridiculous that it got this far, wasting time and tax payers money, as it was clear to anyone that the arrests were unlawful used only to facilitate the industry, but a great result in the end.

      • Oh wow Ruth, such a momentous occassion right?

        The protesters were found not guilty woohoo, break out the champers huh, another monumental decision that needs shouting from the roof tops……….pfttt who in the heck cares.

        With names like Master Lion and the like who could ever take you and these pillars of society seriously.

    • Paul Tresto,
      it is clear from your comments that you have no real understanding of the actions these people have taken and the charges they have subsequently answered to, both on relation to these cases and the previous ones to which you refer.

      And it is quite obvious that you are peeved that they have been found ‘not guilty’, even though it was obvious at the time that no offences had been committed (yes I was there), and it has now been confirmed by a judge, after a full deliberation, that no laws were broken ? ? ?

    • So what if they have Paul! They are protesting about something that negatively affects us all! You should salute them! Don’t make assumptions about them drawing benefits and tarnishing their reputation. I met several of them and was shown round their camp. They are far better people than I am and you should thank them for standing up for all of us! You, me and everybody in this country should stand up against these evil corporations, but maybe you work for one of these companies.

      • Kevin, the impact of onshore UK oil and gas production is positive to the UK not negative. It may be seen as negative to some local residents but this is why we have a planning system. I do not work for any company as I am retired. However I have many years front end technical experience in the upstream Oil and Gas Industry globally including onshore (Lincs. / Lancs / Hampshire / East Sussex) and offshore UK and the dreaded “fracking” and I am therefore able to comment from a position of knowledge and experience. Unlike most on this board. I appreciate I am in the minority on Drill or Drop but the site is open to input from all “sides”?

        I prefer a democratically elected Government to a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems (anarchy).

        I like my gas central heating and I understand electricity production and demand. We need gas for many years to come to fill the gap between current renewables technology and something in the future that will replace gas and provide demand and base load. Oil is required for most modern day items in addition to vehicles; no replacement coming anytime soon.

        It is just a question of where these commodities are going to come from.

  2. What I object to is serial protesters, often unemployed, no fixed abode, moving around the country trying to stop companies go about their lawful business. I would prefer it if they got jobs and contributed to society and the Exchequer. Before you ask, I don’t know if they are in work or out of work or if they have ever worked. They are using up valuable Police and Council resources and are generally not welcomed by the landowners. Most on this board will no doubt disagree with me.

    But you haven’t commented on the previous convictions? Why do you support people who break the law?

    A waste of everyones time.

    I have several gripes including Grouse shooting, raptor persecution and wind turbines. But I don’t feel the need to obstruct any of the shooting fraternity or wind farm developers by obstructing their lawful activities and business.

    [Edited by moderator to remove personal references]

    • Lisa C – unfortunately sold out at our local Boots. I will let the windfarm company I fought for 5 years know (that it is good for wind). Although it is a bit late for them as they have pulled the plug and left England. Is it any good for fugitive emissions? Good to see you have a sense of humour.

  3. What was it MLK said?

    ‘It is a moral obligation to break unjust laws’
    (or something very similar).

    And from where I am looking, (man made) laws are so often on the wrong side of either common sense, or fundamental human values which are common to all.
    In those instances, I think it is sometimes not a bad idea to act with disregard for them. I would most often see such a disregard for them as very healthy, when exercised in a measured and conscionable way.

  4. Paul ^^^ that’s why I sometimes support people who sometimes break the law, in case you are really interested and wanting an answer to that question.

  5. Thanks for the feedback. MLK?

    Wow! I see from Google that several anti frackers who often appear in the news venture out of their SE nest fairly regularly to attend anti fracking shows (??) around the country. Plenty of spare time?

    What are you all going to do when operations start at KM, Horse Hill, Nottingham, the Fylde and Cheshire at the same time? Seems you will be spread very thin on the ground?

  6. Paul, you do not know me. My religion and name is not important in this matter to be honest, beyond the fact that it truly offends me when people refer to me by any other alleged name. I do not ask everyone to call me Master Lion as Lion is usually enough to raise some eyebrows… in fact in some circles People call me Leo or Leon to others who are known to be narrow minded in their views. These are realities that I accept from people who are used to the society they are from and not tolerant enough to form a neutral opinion based on what they think is a strange name.

    My arrest at Ellesmere Port had a decisive influence in opening my eyes to the corruption and bias that is present in the police force against innocent members of the public. I did not hear the officer when he addressed me, and told him this! He acknowledged the first time and raised his voice, but with a generator that was in use very close to us I still could not hear him. He did not make any other attempt to raise his voice, but continued to blabber on incoherently. The next thing I was grabbed and put in a van, a piece of paper placed on the floor in front of me which was put there by an officer. When it came to court, the difference between going guilty and defending the case was so different in terms of cost that it was easier just to go guilty even though I felt that I was not given anywhere enough time or information to make the arrest lawful. Anyhow everyone else went guilty, and this made me feel that there was no point, asking to be tried separately would have potentially incurred even more costs…

    So when I got to the site I didn’t see a lot, certainly not enough to form any sort of opinion, but after the arrest it made me determined to find out what was going on, and why the police were being so unreasonable. It lead me to find out about Fracking and the dangers, then moreover to conventional oil and the more extreme acid methodology. This information coupled with all the environmental information I have been aware of over a long time has lead me to the conclusion the oil, plane, car and train companies are killing people every year and it must stop. full stop. We have the alternatives already, and these tow pieces of information are enough for me to know that, given all the evidence on climate, fossil fuels, and human health combined the continued use of oil is unreasonable…


    The police on Horse Hill were obviously biased. This is an objective point of view based on being there in person, talking to them, being bullied by them and ignored by them. The judge has cleared us as being reasonable in our actions, so this is not a case of people out to be a nuisance, we are all highly principled people within our own characteristics; and to be ignored when we are reporting RTA’s, Driving without due care and attention, and environmental concerns meant that we felt the police had a bias in favour of the drilling site. This is not the job of the police, and warrants a full scale investigation as to why this was allowed to escalate into arrests nin the first place. It may be the case that these sometimes violent and totally unnecessary arrests lead to more further action by the individuals there, the details of which I can not discuss at this time.

    I have done a lot of research and have come to my conclusions, that has lead me to become active in the expression of my opinions around oil and oil based machinery. This could be misconstrued to be a “serial protester” when actually the issue is always the same one, and in fact we are serially being target by the police in various ways to stop us expressing our beliefs and opinions. This is not what underpins a democracy! I would suggest that the oil companies are serially infringing on the rights of the public in cahoots with the government. I have no qualms in expressing my distrust in the current government and the state of the world, in a reasonable manner. The world is more than stocks and shares, it is a living organism of which we are only a part of, not apart from. The sooner this is respected by more people the more chance we have of saving our species.

    Please do not slander me any further, however a healthy debate is welcome.

    • Lion? There appears to be some confusion. I have never heard of you or commented about you? I checked the links to newspaper articles I posted at the start of these comments but they don’t appear to mention Lion. Perhaps you are mixing me up with someone else. Reading above it does seem that Michael Dobbie has mentioned a Master Lion? Means nothing to me. But if your comment is directed at me due to my general dislike of serial protesters then thank you for the background information. But it doesn’t change my views on this. I have voted to stay in the EU but when reading that some Judges find these slow walks legal I wonder if we would not be better out of it and change the law to be more black and white on this issue so that people who deliberately try and slow down / disrupt someone going about their lawful business are prosecuted.

      No problem with people objecting to things but the Government was elected lawfully and made it very clear that they supported the oil and gas industry including shale gas. We have a planning system which you should respect.

      If you against the oil and gas business as a whole, why not try protesting in Qatar or Russia?

  7. So, if this ruling is correct. I can protest against you, any one, slow walk, each and every day for months and obstruct you doing anything in a timely manor? Even if you are not even doing the thing that I’m protesting against!

    So I can slow protest in front of the judge or Thomas Burke , prevent them going home, each and every trip because they might in my warped judgement be intending to do something.

    It’s a harriasmemt charter.

    • Well said Tony. And basically yes. You can make up any ’cause’ you want and then behave in an utterly appealing manner, taking away other peoples rights and disrespecting them because you feel like it. Protest is an incredibly important part of our democracy but it pains me greatly to see some use it for their own ends. Little people angry with the world which doesn’t seem to accept them or conform to their wishes. I’d like to strait a whip around to raise funds to move them all to Northern Iraq and North Korea. Maybe then they will learn whats really important, how much freedom we actually have here, and what real heroes look like. And it ain’t some idiot on top of truck crying because police are using a pressure point to control the idiots before they fall off the damn thing.

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