Ten Greenpeace volunteers acquitted at anti-fracking protest trial

Volunteers protesting against fracking are found not guilty

10 campaigners acquitted of obstructing the highway, 3 November 2017. Photo: (c) Greenpeace UK

Ten anti-fracking campaigners who locked themselves together in a protest outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site have been found not guilty after a trial in Blackpool.

The five women and five men, who included a retired midwife and solicitor, trainee yoga teacher, business analyst and manager of a supported housing unit, were cleared this morning of obstructing the highway.

They had locked themselves together in pairs through yellow-painted boxes outside the site on Preston New Road on 3 May 2017.

Campaigners Block Work at Fracking Site in Lancashire, UK

Campaigners lock their arms through yellow blocks to prevent access to the Preston New Road fracking site, 3 May  2017. Photo: Greenpeace UK

The district judge, Jeff Brailsford, said:

“These defendants hold genuine beliefs and are entitled to express those beliefs. They are, indeed, passionate in support of those beliefs, and those from whom I heard listed the other ways in which they seek to promote their cause.

[It] would seem to me to show that there was fundamental responsibility being exercised by these defendants.

“I am of the view that the defendants have, on the evidence I heard, sufficiently raised and established ‘lawful excuse’.

“The prosecution has not shown, to my satisfaction, the defendants to have been overall unreasonable.

“Accordingly, the charge is not made out, and I find the defendants not guilty.”

This was the first large trial of people who took part in lock-on protests outside Cuadrilla’s site.

“Genuine and passionate beliefs”

Mike Schwarz, from Bindmans LLP, which represented all 10, said:

“What was clear during the trial – and reflected in the judgement –  is that each of these campaigners, people from all walks of life, held genuine and passionate beliefs. They expressed their views peacefully, calmly and politely.  It was therefore not difficult for the judge to conclude that they were entitled to express those beliefs in the reasonable way they did, and acquit all of them.”

Elisabeth Whitebread, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“We are thrilled that the action taken by these ten volunteers has been recognised by the courts for what it was – a peaceful protest acting on the strong belief of concerned citizens that fracking is not good for Lancashire. This not guilty verdict, on the grounds that the protest was reasonable, will add to the volume of the rising voices asking the government to stop backing fracking.”

One of protesters, Gill Wood, from Blackpool, said:

“This is the best possible outcome. We have tried everything and this protest was a reasonable response to the threat of fracking in Lancashire. I first became aware of fracking because it was starting to happen in my hometown of Blackpool. I did my research and didn’t find it to be a proven and safe industry. I didn’t feel happy with the proximity to the town or the industrialisation of the countryside. I believe there are cleaner and safer alternatives such as wind, tidal and solar which would be a good alternative.”

Another, Liz Stanton, from Preston, said:

“As a local person concerned about fracking, I have been campaigning for over five years now.  I have delivered leaflets, run stalls to raise awareness, and got involved with activities to highlight the issue of fracking, such as community get-togethers. I have written to local councillors and MPs and I was outside Lancashire County Hall to celebrate when our council said No to the fracking companies. It made sense that peaceful protest needs to be part of our response to fracking.”

Jane Hayes, who lives Scarborough, 20 miles from Third Energy’s fracking site, said:

“I am so pleased we were acquitted. It has made my year. I acted in solidarity with other people who have peacefully protested fracking, but also acted for my own personal beliefs too. I believe fracking is irresponsible, risking the environment for profit.”

“I live just outside Scarborough in the North York Moors, an area that could be directly affected by fracking. As a National Park, this area should be protected. I was one of thousands who wrote to the planners rejecting fracking at the Kirby Misperton site. However, it has been given the go-ahead unfairly and undemocratically. I hope this positive outcome today will be a boost to other anti-fracking campaigners everywhere.”

Human rights and INEOS injunction

The campaigner Joe Corre, who is challenging an injunction brought by INEOS Shale against anti-fracking protests, said this evening:

“Judges and the courts recognise that our Human Rights under articles 10 and 11 allow citizens to express themselves and protest including sitting down in the road if they want to, even if this activity might ordinarily be unlawful. This is clearly the case with the Greenpeace 10 Lock on.

“INEOS want to stop that consideration at the pass by buying the law and imposing unlimited financial penalties, asset seizures and imprisonment on people at the stage of something being unlawful using their draconian injunction, ignoring the human rights component completely.

“If anything the judgement regarding the Greenpeace 10 shows how unworkable the INEOS injunction is when people are before the court.”

16 replies »

  1. Amazing. So you can commit a crime (obstruction of the highway) and get off scott free cos you want to protest. That could open a whole can of worms. So I suppose threatening behaviour and posting malicious comments to intimidate suppliers is all OK as well?
    That would be the reasoning for INEOS going for an injunction. The fact that the reasoning of the judges is so capricious.

    • [Edited by moderator] What gives you the right to declare a legal verdict and put yourself above appointed judiciary? You should be ashamed of yourself. You introduce spurious “argument” which has nothing to do with this case nor this news report. We are so used to seeing such inane comments that I wonder you have not got the nous to realise what damage you are doing to those who hold your point of view. No wonder you prefer to remain Anon.

    • Ken – It is pretty clear that the judge did not consider that they were obstructing the highway as he said “here was in fact no disruption to traffic on the A583 and vehicles were able with little apparent difficulty to exit the Cuadrilla site.” so not very amazing at all really.

      The judge’s reasoning was clearly not “capricious” but measured and balanced. Well done him for not being pressured into a decision that might have been popular with the government but which would have offended natural justice.

      Let’s hope the judge reviewing the Ineos injunction shows similar independence of mind and fairness.

    • It’s no surprise that you’re anonymous. I’d be ashamed if I was you. Words have power and ignorance like this is not just annoying it’s actually dangerous. Open your eyes – these people trying to protect their water are not the criminals.

  2. What a weak ass judge. Imagine the anarchy that would be the norm if the courts were full of muppets like them.

    • Careful peeny that may be considered contempt of court, even over there.
      Aren’t you all putting so much store in the judicial system to get your precious injunction and rule it over us all to get your own way?
      Just support the law so long as it suites prejudice isn’t it?
      There is a word for that, let me see, begins with “hy” i think and a “poc” in the middle and ends with “rite”
      No just can’t see it? Never mind.

  3. I thought personal attacks were against the policy of this site? I suspect it will get worse before it gets better.

    • Exactly Martin – GottabePeeny is really going too far recently isn’t he? It’s hard to see how he can get much worse though TBH!

    • Yeah, it’s Jack O’ Lantern Frackhead the evil jangling juggling janitor and his jamming jurassic junta and the gory grizzly ghastly ghostly barmy army of green gooey gunge gas breathing living dead dreaded headed bad breath blue bore banged up fear filled foul fossils fueled fools from the back to frack black goo gas shale sham lame lazy loafer lagoon Lake…..or is it?
      Whooo, try saying that fast?
      Too late for Halloween but hey! Why not? There is no injunction against it……yet.

  4. How come there appears to be no definitive answer to the question ” does fracking threaten the water table?” Or is it the usual “there’s massive profits so let’s worry about how sound the science is when it’s too late. Because I’ve looked and it seems those who are making eye watering amounts of money say there’s nothing to worry about and those that aren’t say it’s an insane risk. Who is right?

    • The truth is out there Robert. The major investment managers, lobbyists and pro-frack propagandists, including those minor stocks-and-shares punters with O&G leanings, are simply wrong. Perhaps you know that and your question is rhetorical? But I fear your cynical observation that “there’s massive profits so let’s worry about how sound the science is when it’s too late” is probably a correct interpretation of the main driving forces here.

      I regularly post links to studies, reports and anecdotal accounts here. There’s an increasing number of bans in place not only for three States (and many counties) in the U.S., but for whole countries in the EU and beyond. Many many reports give the breakdown on risks and there’s a huge number of personal front line observations that testify to the impacts on water table, drinking water contamination and other pollution impacts. The high rollers and major (and sometimes minor) investment managers and lobbyists, and even minor stock market punters who have Oil&Gas leanings keep spinning the stories of ‘lack of evidence’. To understand how the ‘majors’ have got away with this for so long it’s necessary to see how legal mechanisms in the USA (such as the Halliburton Loophole and Lone Pine Procedures) have been used to evade or suppress and deny any details and hard evidence which could set a precedent in law, other than allowing through a number of ‘nuisance’ settlements. Power and control in the USA today is synonymous with big Oil and Gas interests and their Environmental Protection Agency has been progressively kneecapped in terms of the findings they are allowed to publish. The EPA is now being told to suppress references to climate change, as is NASA, also.

      While the spinning ‘plates on sticks’ (of the pro-frack propagandists) are getting noticeably wobbly these days we’re still lumbered with vulnerable departments dealing with UK energy and environmental matters who I suspect would love salvation in terms of huge, major new revenue streams and (so called) energy independence – both much over-hyped by way of aggressive lobbying and investment rhetoric.

      [Typos corrected at poster’s request]

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