Some of the first trials arising out of anti-fracking protests outside Third Energy’s fracking site in North Yorkshire are to go ahead in the spring.
A district judge, sitting at York Magistrates Court today, set dates for cases in April and May.
Nearly 30 people, charged with a total of 47 offences during protests at Kirby Misperton, were represented in court today.
They deny charges including obstructing the highway, obstructing or assaulting a police officer and offences under Section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act.
District Judge Adrian Lower lifted reporting restrictions at the hearing.
The court heard that cases were likely to centre on the key questions:
- Did the protests represent reasonable and proportionate disruption to Third Energy?
- Did the police breach the human rights of protesters to freedom of expression and assembly: articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act?
The people on trial were also expected to challenge the prosecution’s allegations about what happened.
Leigh Coghill, who is charged with obstructing a police officer and obstructing the highway, was at the court today. She said:
“Before my arrests at KM8 [the well which Third Energy wants to frack] I spent years campaigning within the planning and legal systems to protect the right of the people to say no to this toxic industry. I’m told that I should stand and wave a placard, but this wouldn’t stop Third Energy from fracking this well, or drilling hundreds more as they intend. Being branded a criminal for doing the right thing has been horrible, but I don’t want my future children to grow up in a gas-field.”
Another person in court today, local resident, Sue Gough, is charged with obstructing the highway. She said:
“I may be found guilty by this court, but my protest was an act of conscience to prevent a far greater crime from happening. I believe Third Energy are about to commit ecocide on the land that I love; I see it as my moral duty to try and stop them.”
Eddie Thornton, from Pickering, also in court, is charged with obstructing a highway, endangering road users and two counts of obstructing a police officer. He said:
“The fact that local residents are prepared to face a district judge and a potential criminal record shows just how strongly our community feels about the dangers of fracking. We’ve been abandoned by our representatives in government, they have forced us to take things into our own hands. Many in court today are first time activists, we’re part of a growing social movement ready to defend any part of the UK threatened by fracking. Wherever the toxic industry attempts to get a toehold, they can expect us.”
Reporting on this post was made possible by individual donations to DrillOrDrop
According to data from North Yorkshire Police, published on Tuesday (9 January 2017), there have been 80 arrests at the Kirby Misperton protests since the start in September.
Of these 80 arrests:
- 58 cases resulted in charges
- 9 cases led to bail while an investigation continued
- 9 arrests resulted in no further action
- 4 arrests led to cautions
North Yorkshire Police has also give details of 71 of the charges.
Almost half were for obstructing the highway. The next most frequent was described as “intimidation or annoyance by violence or otherwise” under trades union legislation.