Horse Hill protest trial: 8 campaigners found guilty and 1 acquitted

Eight anti-fracking campaigners have been found guilty of a range of offences following protests outside the Horse Hill oil exploration site near Gatwick Airport. Another campaigner was cleared of obstruction.

After a five-day trial, district judge Andrew Vickers conditionally discharged five of the campaigners. One received an absolute discharge and another a fine of £100. Sentence was postponed on the final campaigner who did not attend the trial and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

DJ Vickers said the case was not about fracking, although it was relevant to the beliefs of the people on trial. He said the campaigners had a right to freedom of expression and assembly. The case centred on whether their actions in opposing the company operating at Horse Hill had been reasonable.

The court had heard that four campaigners had climbed on to lorries delivering to the Horse Hill site during flow testing in February and March. Two pairs of campaigners had taken part in lock-on protests, where they secured their arms together through tubes.

The prosecution had argued that these actions had been designed to disrupt operations at the site. The defence had given evidence that dangerous driving by some delivery lorries had prevented campaigners from walking slowly in front of vehicles, which they believed to be a lawful protest. The campaigners said police officers had not taken action against these drivers.

One of the campaigners who climbed on a delivery vehicle disconnected airlines to the brakes, disabling the vehicle. The court had heard that on 19 February Paul Doody had been concerned that the driver of this vehicle had narrowly avoided a collision with a car.

Announcing the verdict, DJ Vickers said:

“My view is that he was frustrated by the driving and he thought this would be an opportunity to make the vehicle inactive. His tampering with the vehicle was unlawful. I am not satisfied he was acting for the good of others.”

The judge said Mr Doody’s action was potentially dangerous and unjustified. He fined him £100 and ordered him to pay a total of £150 in costs.

Ben Hewitt climbed onto a vehicle on March 11 and had to be removed by a specialist police team. DJ Vickers said the vehicle could not move without endangering Mr Hewitt’s life and this was unreasonable. Mr Hewitt received a conditional discharge for tampering with a vehicle and resisting arrest. He was ordered to pay a total of £100 in costs.

The district judge also said a woman who climbed up at the same time as Mr Hewitt had also behaved unlawfully. But he said her obstruction had been relatively momentary because she was quickly removed by police. She received an absolute discharge and no order for costs.

Jason Medina also climbed in a delivery vehicle after he became more and more concerned about what was described as “dangerous, reckless and undisciplined driving”. DJ Vickers said Mr Medina had been “wound up” by one driver whose behaviour “could have amounted to assault”.

The judge said he was satisfied that Mr Medina’s movement on the vehicle had caused a dent in the cab. He imposed a conditional discharge for the damage but because it was cosmetic did not make an order for compensation. Mr Medina was also ordered to pay costs of £100.

Naomi Gurd, KimTurner and Daniel White, who took part in the lock-on protests, also received a conditional discharge and were ordered to pay costs totalling £100. The fourth lock-on campaigner did not attend the hearing. DJ Vickers said he was not prepared to sentence Nicholas Grant in his absence.

On the acquitted campaigner, DJ Vickers said:

“I am not satisfied that the crown has shown that his behaviour amounted to wilful obstruction and it was unreasonable. I dismiss the allegation.”

Trial summing up

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17 replies »

    • If you are for fracking you need to give your head a wobble…..maybe you have a financial interest, that will always ensure people have strange opinions as to what is best for this world

    • Your comments are to say the very least misguided. These guys are far from being parasites, they are heroes for trying to protect our countryside from ruin. The real parasites are the gas and oil industry for ravaging our land for profit and our government for allowing this to happen. Renewable energy is the solution.

      • John – I keep hearing this – Please explain how Renewable Energy is the solution? Solution when and to what exactly? Our heat and electricity base load and demand load requirements? It makes no difference with or without shale gas, renewable energy is a very long way from replacing gas. And even further away if you don’t want nuclear either. Have a read of the National Grid FES report from earlier this month. Gas plays a significant part in all scenarios for a long time to come (yes, even the greenest one which requires significant gas to make more electricity for ECs and heating etc) . No one objects to going 100% renewable if it works and can be afforded.

    • We understand the law very well. A night in a warm cell, dinner, we even get a hot shower, its a pleasant break from being on camp. We weigh our actions against any penalties, and the damage to share prices and bad publicity for the companies involved, most of us have legal observer training, direct action training, and a really great legal and support team. Have a great day x

  1. Even if you accept they have the right to protest against fracking, there is no fracking at this site and there never will be.

  2. Very lenient punishment DJ Vickers.

    I hope the financial impositions cause these liars as much discomfort as they caused other road users when carrying out their pathetic actions.

    Any comments Gadget? So much for their denying all charges.

    Says a lot about the class of protesters when 1 doesn’t even have the guts to attend court and face his due punishment. Oh well his day in tge sun has just become a lot worse.

    No doubt this model “local” citizen will be replaced by another waste of space.

    • Our pathetic actions are usually part of a nice day out, we dont fear the police and have a great legal support team. However, investors, and the pro fracking community poop their pants when we do little more than hand out a leaflet, extra security, delays, staff and contractors waisting days in court are a great success when weighed against a gentle stroll down a country lane.

  3. Hello Michael, you still retain your sense of humour i see? as do others from the pro fracking fraternity. I dont support damage or dangerous actions by protesters, i do support peaceful legal protest as should you, when some private company government promoted and supported activity endangers you and your family, you would be grateful for the right of legal peaceful protest.

    I think you miss-understand the legal process, it is not ‘punishment’ at all, it is the legal claim for compensation taken out by one person to derive reparation from the other, the judge simply acts as arbiter and applies the relevant law to the situation. there is no ‘punishment’ aspect to it at all. the terms guilty or innocent are relevant only to the law, not of blame or a judgement on moral behaviour.

    Some here call the protesters a ‘waste of space’, ‘anti fracking jobless parasites’. these you may be interested to know, are classed as ‘slander’ in law and may lead the accuser to a day in court on their own behalf. The law is not partial, or should not be, if you break the law in any capacity you may expect to be prosecuted for it.

    As a matter of interest, i often note that any progress on pro fracking derives a whooping and crowing commentary by the pro-fracking fraternity, but when an anti-fracker fraternity achievement is made, there is no whooping or crowing from the anti-fracking fraternity and the pro-fracking fraternity are silent?
    How do you explain that?
    Have a good day Michael, keep up the good work!

  4. Philip you call it how you see and I’ll do the same.

    I cannot find any humour in the actions of your comrades and whether you acknowlwdge it or not, those members of your movement were found to have committed various crimes despite their plea’s of innocence.

    I, like you, support the right to protest, peacefully, so perhaps you can share with me what the so called peaceful actions of your mates.

    I’m not going to get into any tit for tat with you because a great deal of your post is best left ignored, suffice to say the calibre of your members that carried out their recent law-breaking activities, particularly the brave member who chose not to front his judgement, must make you proud they are associated with your side of the debate.

  5. Note again – the legal precedent is emerging, slow walking appears to be tolerated by the courts. This supports the principle that it is reasonable that a protest will cause inconvenience and delay – but will not stop the other party going about their lawful business.

  6. When this site goes into production, expect hundreds of protesters, the road will be almost unusable for months and the company share price will plumet. It worked against IGAS and Horse Hill will be no different .

  7. Most of the protectors are fully aware that our society is powered by oil and gas. They are not stupid. What they are trying to say is that this does not have to be the way. 100 years ago the world was powered by horse power. The leaders of society were at their wits end trying to tackle the problems of excess manure and the consequent health hazards. Along came the model T Ford. This and oil were a wonderful way forward. We all have benefitted greatly. BUT it is time to move on. We now understand that the pollution from oil and gas will have devasted the climate in another 100 years time. We need our governments to look to the future and invest heavily in new research. Solar and wind are getting cheaper all the time, but this needs to be the start of a new way. Only massive funding to universities and inventors can get us out of this mess. Countries like Bangladesh will be the most severely affected. If you think Syrian refugees are a problem just wait until half the populations of India and Africa start trying to come here. We need strong leadership, not the self serving money grabbers we currently have.
    Fracking will mean short term electricity supply but at the cost of millions of lives. Why risk our land, out water and our health for such a short sighted policy.

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