Businessman considers legal action against police after acquittal for obstruction at anti-fracking protest

170918 PNR green Monday Refracktion 3

John Tootill with Green Party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road, 18 September 2017. Photo: Refracktion

A businessman and leading campaigner against Cuadrilla’s fracking operation near Blackpool has been cleared by a court of obstruction.

John Tootill, who runs Maple Farm Nurseries near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, said he was now considering legal action against Lancashire Police.

Mr Tootill was found not guilty by magistrates in Blackpool this afternoon of obstructing a police officer during anti-fracking protests on 1 June 2017. He had denied the offence.

This was the second time Mr Tootill had been arrested near the shale gas site. On the first occasion, on 8 March 2017, he was held in police custody for about 11 hours after being arrested for obstructing the highway. That case against him was dropped before it came to court.

Mr Tootill told DrillOrDrop:

“I will be taking advice about bringing a case against the police for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment

“This is the second time I have been arrested and falsely imprisoned. I believe it has happened to other people on numerous occasions. It seems to be a tactic of dissuading protesters from protesting and exercising their legal rights.”

He added:

“I have obviously suffered from the association of being arrested for criminal offences. The fact that I’ve been vindicated is a wonderful outcome. But if any person hears of someone arrested their view is going to be affected. I’ve suffered the indignities associated with that.”


Signs outside Mr Tootill’s Maple Farm Nursery on Preston New Road. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Mr Tootill’s opposition to Cuadrillla’s operations is obvious from the eye-catching signs outside his nursery and the facilities he offers at Maple Farm to anti-fracking campaign groups.

In 2016, Fylde Borough Council sought to prosecute Mr Tootill for the anti-fracking signs at Maple Farm. It brought 26 charges of unauthorised advertising against him but later dropped the case before it came to court. The council said the prosecution was not in the public interest after fire had destroyed Mr Tootill’s home in Westby.

Mr Tootill said:

“I am a local businessman and I am very openly showing my opposition to the industry.

“All the time, as many police officers would verify, I am also the face of moderation. I encourage good behaviour. It is so disappointing, in spite of this, that the police are still behaving so badly.”

He said he was very relieved at the verdict.

“There is a lot of trauma involved. I was always confident common sense would prevail. But I was fearful of bias against me.

“You know you’ve not done anything wrong. You’ve got your inner confidence but, because of the things you’ve experienced and heard about, it does cause concern.”

Asked if his experience would change his opposition to fracking, Mr Tootill said:

“None whatsoever. If nothing else, it does strengthen your resolve to combat this industry and the influence that it has on democracy.”

27 replies »

  1. Rev’d Peter Doodes, in response to your question, yes the police are aware of those responsible but again done nothing about it, says it all.

  2. I’m really pleased for John and the way this shows the police tactics to target good people in an attempt to scare locals away from protests. I hope John takes them to the cleaners .

  3. Luckily there won’t be anymore of these NIMBYS wasting our time with Ineos’ game changing injunction.
    I feel sorry for the police.

    • Peeny – I get that it must be hard trying to behave yourself as “Jose Maria” over on that Fracking Evidence FB group, but do try not to let it all out here in compensation. 😂

      • GottaBKidding- If the Ineos injunction is allowed, this government will finally be admitting that they value their industry donors and cronies more than democracy in this country. Not surprising since the Tories are quite willing to buy their way into power.

  4. I wonder what these unproven dangers of fracking are ? If they are speaking of methane, then that bleeds into the atmosphere all over the world in marshy places. It is called marsh gas. Methane is not a poison to humans. But, if you were in a small area and opened a valve of a container of methane, you could die because it would create a positive pressure inside the area where you were and that would drive out the natural air, leaving you without oxygen.I have never heard of any diseases associated with fracking, which the notice claims to be ,seemingly, rife. I have run a car on butane/methane for ten years now. It is a cleaner burn than petrol so less polluting and nobody I know has died as a result of my burning methane. Neighbours seem to be oka, family in no better or worse health than the population at large. I know that I do get the odd whiff of methane when I am filling up so, over the years, that would add up to an overdose if it was harmful.

  5. What are those truths Peter ? You really shouldn’t keep such vital information to yourself, but do provide the proofs. Personal philosophy and hearsay, I must caution you, is not ‘proof’ of anything

    • Vernon. It doesn’t take much research to discover many truths about the hazards associated with fracking. If talking about methane for instance you only need to look at the wiki page on natural gas to see that it doesn’t come out of the ground in the pure form that you’ve stated as harmless, it’s mixed with many contaminants and byproducts (see attached image to see what needs to be filtered or condensed from it before it’s fit for the mains). Portions of any/all of those substances can (and do) go into the air, ground, and water tables from associated operations, and worse, the ‘flow-back’ from the fracking process itself (of millions of gallons of chemically laced water injected at up to 15000psi) contains some very toxic, radioactive and heavy elements – all naturally occurring at depth but when brought to the surface, and when seeping along unpredictable pathways (under pressure), create a whole bunch of other issues and disposal problems.

      Meanwhile, methane alone, seeping into the atmosphere (as a portion of it does from any gas field operation) has a greenhouse gas potency of around 80 times that of CO2 in it’s first ten years and around 20 times over 100 years.

    • Hey Vernon, how are you doing? Better than Cuadrilla and the UK fracking industry I hope!
      The BGS list of Hydrofrac Earthquakes is very impressive now but seemed to halt after Cuadrilla were closed down at September, 2019 following the August Bank Holiday Weekend swarm of Hydrofrac Earthquakes culminating in the 2.9 earthquake that generated over 2000 complaints to the BGS and nearly 200 complaints of property damage.
      No complaints of ill health linked to Cuadrilla’s attempts to test frack at Preston New Road yet although local resident’s happiness and general state of mind hasn’t yet recovered.
      Equally no reports of contaminated ground water or drinking water yet. Early days though.

    • Vernon, the matter of police conduct at and around the Preston New Road fracking site will be brought to Court in the near future once the present crisis has passed and normality resumes.
      All things being equal.

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