Legal

Three generations of family found guilty over Lancs anti-fracking protest

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Anti-fracking lock-on protest outside Cuadrilla’s Preston NewRoad site on 12 July 2017. Photo: Reclaim the Power

Three generations of the same family have been found guilty of obstructing the highway outside Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Lancashire.

73-year old Gillian Kelly, her son, Sebastian, and 20-year-old granddaughter, Megan, were among seven people who stood trial this week following a “lock-on” protest outside the Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool.

Under the banner Families Against Fracking, six of the group locked their arms into reinforced tubes in three painted boxes. The seventh member of the group, drove a car which delivered the boxes. They said their action was to raise awareness of what they said were the dangers of fracking to water, land, health and the climate.

The protest was part of a month of protest called Rolling Resistance, in July 2017, coordinated by the anti-fracking group, Reclaim the Power.

The three members of the Kelly family, along with Paul Martyn, Molly Hopkinshaw, Beatrice Patrick and Toby Fairlove all denied obstructing the highway.

District judge Jane Goodwin, sitting in Preston, said all had strongly-held views and strong moral convictions.

But she said the case was not about the rights or wrongs of fracking and their actions had been unreasonable.

All seven were given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge. All but Megan Kelly, a student, were ordered to pay £250 costs.

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Anti-fracking lock-on protest outside Cuadrilla’s Preston NewRoad site on 12 July 2017. Photo: Reclaim the Power

“Powerful message”

Gillian Kelly, a psychotherapist, told the court the group thought it would send a powerful message if three generations took part in the protest. She said the group had planned the protest and the night before they had practiced the lock-on.

The court heard that the group had intended to lock-on in the entrance to Cuadrilla’s site, to avoid blocking the A583.

But when they arrived at the site at about 10.15am on 12 July 2017, the police had set up a contraflow. The group decided instead to use the central reservation of the road.

The campaigners said there was enough space for vehicles to pass and there had been protests in this part of the road before. They said the police decision to close the road was unnecessary. Police officers told the court the road had to be closed to give a specialist team enough space to unlock the campaigners. They were released in mid afternoon.

Toby Fairlove, who drove the car, said he hadn’t intended to block the carriageway because he believed this would antagonise local people. He said police officers took the ignition key from the car seconds after he had stopped in the road.

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Anti-fracking lock-on protest outside Cuadrilla’s Preston NewRoad site on 12 July 2017. Photo: Reclaim the Power

“Behaviour was not reasonable”

DJ Goodwin told the campaigners:

“It was not your initial intention to cause an obstruction.

“Had ‘Plan A’ gone to plan who knows what would have happened. But that was not the case on 12 July.”

The protest was significant enough to have an impact on other road users, she said. She rejected the campaigners’ argument that the road closure was not necessary. The refusal of the six to unlock themselves led to the road closure, she said.

“Such behaviour is not reasonable”

DJ Goodwin referred to the ruling by the High Court judge, Mr Justice Morgan, in the INEOS injunction case. Although not binding on the criminal courts, he concluded that lying in the road, particularly when locked-on, would not be regarded as a reasonable use of the highway.

“Proud of actions”

Gillian Kelly, born and raised in the area around Cuadrilla’s site, said:

“Today’s ruling went against us but we feel proud of our actions and on the right side of history. We hope we may have inspired others to take a stand against fracking in whichever way they can.”

Sebastian Kelly said:

“Public opinion is increasingly set against fracking and more and more people are becoming inspired to join the campaign against it. Our action taught me that we really can change things, and I believe that we really can stop fracking in its tracks.”

Megan Kelly said:

“I felt apprehensive taking the action we did – but a little anxiety is nothing compared to the disastrous climate change that fracking and other fossil fuel use threatens.”

35 replies »

  1. “Toby Fairlove, who drove the car, said he hadn’t intended to block the carriageway because he believed this would antagonise local people. He said police officers took the ignition key from the car seconds after he had stopped in the road.”

    So the police obstructed the highway? Did the police arrest themselves and submit themselves for prosecution by the court? Why not?

  2. Another good exhibit for the injunction(s) documentation. Interesting that Mr. Justice Morgan’s opinion was referenced. I seem to remember that someone (GBK?) suggested that the Ineos injunction hearings would create more certainty for future court cases. Seems to be pretty sound now.

  3. These anti frackers think they are above the law because of their political conviction.
    Its a bit like daying I am allowed to break the law to stop people who I THINK, accordingly to my judgement, are doing the wrong things by my standard.
    They have serious delusional of grandeur problem these ecowarriors and anti fracking activists.

    • What utter rubbish you lot do speak. All the historical leaps forward in human rights have begun not with government but by individual protest and demonstrations.
      Many of them far outstrip anything that pro life anti fracking pro democracy demonstrators have done. The list is very long, just a few are:
      Spartacus, Che Guavara, Maximilian Robespierre, Rosa Luxemburg, Mahatma Gandhi, Toussaint L’Overture, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Parks, Emily Pankhurst, John Brown, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, Sam Sharpe, and so many many more. Governments shpuld encourage protest, otherwise they stagnate and become greedy and corrupt.
      All those people did more than just lock on and allow the police to obstruct the highway by disabling their car.
      Consider yourselves fortunate, so far, it can only get more exciting for the invading anti anti’s?
      The right of protest in the face of high jacked overbearing fascist corporations and compromised government should be celebrated, it’s the only avenue of forward movement for inertia laden self interest..
      Welcome to democracy!

      • And the suffragettes were sent to prison, force fed when they refused food. You will not stop people who have ‘conviction’ in their beliefs.

        Whilst I agree with his pedantic summing up ‘that lying in the road, particularly when locked-on, would not be regarded as a reasonable use of the highway’ he has not put it in context of the right to protest peacefully under the Human Rights Act. Shame that.

        I am proud of this family and their strength. This behaviour by the police and judicial system is just moving us towards an inevitable change in governance. Keep going. Will make our job easier.

        • ‘The human rights contained within this law are based on the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Act ‘gives further effect’ to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention. It means:

          Judges must read and give effect to other laws in a way which is compatible with Convention rights.
          It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.’
          It appears by her statement District judge Jane Goodwin, sitting in Preston, ‘said all had strongly-held views and strong moral convictions. But she said the case was not about the rights or wrongs of fracking and their actions had been unreasonable.’ has not taken this into account.
          https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/what-are-human-rights/human-rights-act

        • Hi Sherwulfe there was an interesting radio 4 program Across The Red Line “is physical force and violence ever politically justified?” Great conversation, very apt for these trying times.

          Like you I feel privileged to see three family generations stand up, or rather lie down and lock on for our human rights of protest and demonstration that are so much under attack by this increasingly totalitarian regime.

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09nxsc9

          These actions are the future Rosa Parks of our times. We take human rights to freedom of speech and protest for granted, yet they were won by the actions of people who said
          “No further, enough is enough”
          Unlike the budding fascists amongst us, the future will be built on human rights, not human wrongs.
          I think every generation has to go through this, lest we forget just how far we have come and how far we can again fall, and who stood up in front of fascist totalitarian jackboots and overcame them.

  4. It’s time that the police took more action against the company vandalising the countryside and causing pollution in the air and in the ground. We don’t need anymore fossil fuel energy sources we have a growing renewable energy supply. The government should not have allowed this industry to take hold in the countryside. All political parties are against this industry as are all the countries in the UK apart from the England and Conservative government. The evidence is there for all to see: This industry pollutes and damages the countryside. The defendants are law abiding citizens who were trying to bring attention to the damage that is being done in and around these sites.

  5. BTW. The conviction record will looks great on CV the young lady member of the family when she goes looking for job. It shows she is an activist and willing to take matter into her own hand wherever her convivtion is. Well done to the parent.

    • Obstructing a highway is hardly going to prevent her future career TW…..strength, determination and prepared to take action to support her beliefs, now that’s a great enhancement to any CV.

      • Security clearance and police check will show up. She now has a conviction against her name. And for what? Someone else political agenda and vested interests. She doesn’t realise she is being a part of a big contentious agenda and propaganda.

  6. A sensible outcome apart from one thing only. I do believe that the costs of releasing the family and tidying up after the protest should be borne by the protesters. It’s not clear here who will be paying for the police and contractors (if there were any) involvement in this. The magistrate should have placed a demand on the family to pay for the results of the protest action. It should not be incumbent on the council, the general public/tax payer, the police or the company to pay.

  7. So, employers only rely on CVs do they? What about Facebook etc.?

    There really are a core of the deluded at work. Obviously too hung up by Lenin and believe the army of “useful idiots” are out there mopping it up.

    • Francis. That’s one of the delusion of grandeur by these activists. The mining and extraction of these mineral for solar panel and battery cause alot of pollution too. Not too mention the cost and pollution of recycling and disposal of them at end of their uses.
      I am all for renewables but to be delusional about it replacing all our energy supply by calling keeping fossil fuel in the ground is a bit naive.

      • TW, keep up.

        No one is asking for an overnight shift. Apart from the fact that we are creatures of habit, it is impossible due to the spiders web of trade agreements and back-handers.

        It’s about not bringing any new fossil fuel reserves. It’s about using the fossil fuel wisely to construct an clean energy system that is sustainable. It’s about not covering all our food in toxic plastic and being charged twice for the pleasure, once instead of the food, twice to get someone to take it away and dump it in the ocean.

        The important thing missed is we as a species are running out of time. This family know that and have made their stand for the future of our home, the Blue Planet.

        The judge failed to equate the charge against their human right to protest and has convicted literally.

        More will stand/sit/slow walk and protest. It’s inevitable Mr Anderson.

        Food supplies are affected by global warming; mass migration of species and resulting conflicts; there won’t be any point applying for a job when we are dead?

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