Prominent anti-fracking campaigner, Tina Rothery, refused this morning to pay legal fees amounting to more than £55,000 in a dispute with the shale gas company, Cuadrilla.
Speaking outside Blackpool Law Courts, Ms Rothery said
“I will not pay, even if I could, now or ever. This is my line in the sand.”
Ms Rothery had been ordered to attend a session with court officials to provide information about her finances. Afterwards she told a crowd of about 150 supporters from across the UK that the court process was unjust and she refused to engage with it.
Cuadrilla said it would be considering its next step. (See the end of this post for the company’s full statement).
The claim against Ms Rothery dates back to a hearing in the High Court in Manchester nearly two years ago.
In August 2014, Cuadrilla took legal action to evict anti-fracking campaigners camping in a field near a site at Little Plumpton where it had applied for permission to frack.
Cuadrilla argued that the occupation had caused disruption and distress to the farmer’s family and his business.
The company also sought an injunction on behalf of a group of landowners to prevent members of national and local anti-fracking groups from entering land throughout the Fylde.
Ms Rothery asked for an adjournment to allow campaigners to challenge the injunction. At the next hearing, when the injunction was granted unopposed, part of Cuadrilla’s legal costs were awarded against her as the only named defendant. Since then, interest has been added at 8%. The current total is £55,342.37. DrillOrDrop report on the background to the case.
“I am Tina Rothery”
In the run-up to today’s case, supporters mounted a campaign on social media #I am Tina Rothery, inspired by the Spartacus story. This morning they arrived wearing Tina Rothery masks. Some joined Ms Rothery in wearing yellow aprons, the unofficial uniform of the Lancashire nanas anti-fracking group.
Outside the court, she said:
“This is not about me. This is about us being united.”
She likened her situation to calling on a childhood friend to face the school bully.
“Look what you did. You turned up.
“You achieved today what I could not achieve alone: strength, solidarity and unity.”
She said the legal system was being abused. Referring to the court, she said:
“These places are supposed to seek genuine justice.
“This is unjust: £55,000 for camping in a field, doing no damage and exercising a right to protest peacefully.”
Ms Rothery said instead of providing financial information to the court, she had made this statement to the official:
“With respect to the District Judge and the courts I have huge admiration for a system of justice that is fair but I feel in this case that our law courts are not being used to seek justice but instead being applied like a weapon and a threat against peaceful protest.
“The fact that Cuadrilla has the finances, power and vindictiveness to pursue this through our courts is an abuse of one of the most valued aspects of our democracy.
“So please accept my apologies if this seems rude but as this case has nothing to do whatsoever with justice, I will not be complying with any requests for information or payment.”
To cheers from supporters, she concluded:
“I make this statement on behalf of myself and an entire movement who will not be bullied.”
Bailiff in a stab vest
Ms Rothery said she had been pursued for the costs across Yorkshire in May by a bailiff in a stab vest..
“I am just a regular citizen. I didn’t do anything dangerous but I am being treated like a criminal.”
Ms Rothery said if Cuadrilla chose to pursue her then a date would be set for her case to go before a judge. She added:
“I brought a few mates this time. If they chose to take it to the next step, you wait until next time.”
A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said today:
“Today Ms Rothery was asked to provide information to a Court Officer on her financial means. This is because she has failed to comply with an Order the Court made against her in October 2014 to pay costs as a result of trespass on private farmland in August 2014.
“Ms Rothery asked to be a named defendant in the original trespass case and was informed by the Court at the time that, as a result, an order for costs could be made against her.
“Whilst we respect the right of legal, peaceful protest, in this instance the Lancashire farmers were subjected to this trespass by hundreds of trespassers over a prolonged period.
“They will now consider next steps. Cuadrilla is fully supporting the local farmers in this”.
Updated 25/6/2016 with exact wording of Ms Rothery’s statement to the court official