Legal

Campaigner considers appeal over conviction for climbing on rig lorry

170907 Pease Pottage UKOG Rig Eddie Mitchell4

Rig lorry protest at Pease Pottage services, 7 September 2017. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

An anti-drilling campaigner who delayed the transport of an oil rig by spending the night on the delivery lorry has been found guilty.

Lecturer, Peter Whittick, from Crawley, said his protest was an act of conscience and he was considering an appeal.

Speaking outside Brighton Magistrates Court this morning he said was seeking to protect communities from fracking and industrialisation of the countryside and to draw attention to breaches of regulations.

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Dr Whittick after the verdict at Brighton Magistrates Court, 14 February 2018. Photo: Jane Mote

The verdict follows a one-day trial last week, at which the court heard how Dr Whittick had climbed onto the lorry when it was parked at Pease Pottage Services off the A23 in West Sussex. (DrillOrDrop reports from the trial here and here)

He said it was a remarkable coincidence that he saw the rig parked at the services, about a mile from his home, when he drove in to buy cake for his family.

The court had heard how Dr Wittick spent several hours before taking any action, talking to friends and other campaigners about what he should do.

He was spotted at about 2.30am on 7 September 2017 when the lorry driver prepared to take the rig to the Lidsey oil site near Bognor in West Sussex.

Police warned Dr Whittick that he would be arrested. He came down from the lorry unaided after about 10 hours at around mid-day.

Dr Whittick argued that there had been a breach of planning conditions because the lorry had taken the rig off another oil site at Broadford Bridge outside permitted hours. The scheduled arrival at the Lidsey site would also have breached planning conditions, he said.

Moving rig on public road “not unlawful”

But today District Judge Christopher James said fracking, though contentious, was not unlawful. Nor was the movement of the rig on public roads from one site to another, he said.

He found Dr Whittick guilty of hindering the rig owner from carrying out its lawful business under section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (consolidation) Act.

DJ James said Dr Whittick had rights to freedom of expression and assembly under the Human Rights Act. But those rights were qualified by the rights of others to be free to go about their lawful business. Because of the protest, the rig’s arrival at Lidsey was delayed and the lorry driver’s day was extended to 21 hours.

The District Judge said:

“In this case there has been substantial interference in the rights of the rig owner.”

There was a deliberate disturbance, he said, which went beyond what was reasonable.

DJ James said:

“You are a genuine protester, someone with deeply held views but your behaviour crossed the line of lawful protest.”

DJ James conditionally discharged Dr Whittick for 12 months and reduced his costs to £105. To applause from the packed the public gallery, the district judge added:

“You are a man of conscious with deep-seated opinions about climate change and the protection of the environment.”

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Dr Whittick’s supporters outside Brighton Magistrates Court, 14 February 2018. Photo: Jane Mote

“Wrong people in the dock”

Outside the court, Dr Whittick said he was very disappointed that he was not acquitted. But he said:

“I know I did do the right thing to raise awareness about the dangerous of onshore oil and gas.

“We are talking about thousands of wells across the entire region. That to my mind is a crime and it is necessary for everyone to do their best to prevent that crime.”

In a statement to supporters he said:

“The wrong people are being put in the dock. In temporarily delaying the progress of the drill rig BDF28, I was acting out of conscience to protect the communities of Sussex and the Weald from the threat of future fracking, from the current planned industrialisation of the weald by oil and gas companies and to highlight the ongoing breaches of West Sussex County Council’s operating regulations that the court has accepted as evidence.

“The police and the authorities have attempted to criminalise myself and fellow activists by including us in the Sussex Police prevent domestic extremism bulletins.

“How it is possible that peaceful well-meaning and caring people, whose focus is only to protect the land and their communities are criminalised in this way, is beyond my comprehension. Citizens are being stripped of their democratic human rights to protest, while the act of ecocide, through increasing oil and gas production in the face of accelerating climate change, is going unchallenged.

“My action to prevent harm was an act of conscience. The District Judge was clearly affected by this stance and has given serious consideration to it.”

Lorraine Inglis, a campaigner with Weald Action Group, said:

“We are very grateful to Peter Whittick for doing what he did. Unfortunately he was not acquitted.”

She said campaigners were concerned about plans by the industry to use acid to extract oil from across the Weald. They would continue to try to slow down the industry and campaign against the industrialisation of the countryside, she said.

22 replies »

  1. Pete is a true hero. Future generations will remember his actions in trying to stop their water being poisoned and the acceleration of climate change.

      • “DJ James said Dr Whittick had rights to freedom of expression and assembly under the Human Rights Act. But those rights were qualified by the rights of others to be free to go about their lawful business.” you dont say! others have rights too!

    • “He found Dr Whittick guilty of hindering the rig owner from carrying out its lawful business under section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (consolidation) Act.”

      We see again the use of section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (consolidation) Act. Which is a anti Trades Union act and is being misused to criminalise and prevent protest and demonstration.

      While the industry break every rule and agreement in the book with apparent impunity.

      Regardless of everything else, this anti democratic criminalisation of human rights and protest is the issue that emerges most clearly from this fracking debacle.

      To quote Dr. Peter Whittick

      “How it is possible that peaceful well-meaning and caring people, whose focus is only to protect the land and their communities are criminalised in this way, is beyond my comprehension. Citizens are being stripped of their democratic human rights to protest, while the act of ecocide, through increasing oil and gas production in the face of accelerating climate change, is going unchallenged.”

      • Phil C

        The crucial point about section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (consolidations) act, is that it involves successfully preventing someone going about their legal work – which, of course, in the anti-fracking context, is exactly what this particular protester achieved and other protesters are attempting to do.
        So it is relevant and correct for the police to arrest and charge the protesters under this law.
        I understand how difficult it is for the antifracking campaigners to accept, but other people have rights to.

        • That is what has been done but it is not the absolute truth, and it is only ignorance and deception of the truth that has allowed that to continue.
          It has no legal relevance outside of Trades Unions activities, and only came into being and was extended to everyone, quite wrongly by definition, when the Thatcher government was determined to crush the Trades Unions.
          It is therefore technically irrelevant in this context.
          The fact that such a misappropriation of an unrelated law indicates a desperation to crush the protest related to fracking and such overturning of demonstration rights are still defined as abuse of human rights in the international human rights agreements.

          Hence The Hagues warnings in the past.

          Such fundamental rights and freedoms are crushed or ignored or overturned by law courts and in secret law courts that were never meant to be used for civil injunctions but were for national security matters, and hence is also technically misappropriation of such courts. These misuses are propagated at our collective peril.

          To support such overturning by such anti Trades Union Law misappropriation is simply an indication of how far this country has sunk into totalitarian overbearing control.
          As regards the rights of others to carry out their legal rights, then such rights must not ever be at the expense of rights that exist to protect us all.
          Also such rights cannot be at the expense of the human rights of the protesters, which is the present situation.
          It’s tricky, and there is no easy solution, but to constantly and consistently support one groups rights at the expense of others rights is a failure of civilisation and cannot, in all conscience, be allowed to persist.

          There is also another aspect that emerges from all this, and that is that corporations have claimed that they are legal fabricated “persons” in law. And hence they have inherited the rights of a natural person, but remain a legal fabrication in fact.
          However, a living natural person of flesh and blood has much deeper and far more fundamental human rights in common law than such legal “fictitions” and fabrications.
          Therefore, in theory at least, the rights of a living person outweigh and supercede all such legal fiction rights
          And therefore a living person should by rights……supersede the legal fiction person rights hands down every time.
          That is interesting isn’t it?

          • The act was amended and brought up to date in 1992 under John Major’s government.

            Protesters cannot use Article 11 as a shield to protect themselves against prosecution for unlawful acts.

            Everyone can protest peacefully as is their right.
            But when people stray beyond that, then the rights afforded under article 11 are superseded by the laws of the land.

            Otherwise we would have all manner of minority campaign groups bullying society.

            • Ooops, the bullying word works both ways John. I thought we were past all that? Apparently not?

              This conversation has suddenly taken a turn for the depressingly familiar bizarre again hasn’t it?

              Who mentioned Article 11? Are you referring to article 11 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights? I didnt refer to that did i? However, now you mention it i would uphold all of the human rights, all 30 of them,

              They are here below if anyone wants to look at them.

              http://www.claiminghumanrights.org/udhr_article_11.html

              What is wrong with that? One does not hide behind such legal human rights, one possesses them without question or the need even to refer to them? They are inalienable and act as a protection, one does not hide behind anything that profound?

              Please remember they protect you as well?

              I said it was difficult, i didnt suggest that one side should take precedent over any other side, i said all sides, if indeed sides have any real meaning, since we are all human beings with equal rights, or at least that is the theory? All sides and everyone has such rights and to attempt to outlaw one persons rights to suit or pander to another is simply a contravention of the entirety of human rights, and must be opposed at every turn.

              What is wrong with saying that? Is that not the truth?

              Look John, if we allow any one person or organisation or government to seek to overturn or outlaw any of these human rights as set out in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we all suffer as a result, so in fact you should surely be applauding the stand that some have taken, because they protect us all, to let one company overrule any human right is a treasonous act against ALL of us.

              That is it, thats all anyone can say, isnt it? Its getting late, i have had enough today, have a good night and hopefully we will all still have our god given rights tomorrow morning.

  2. Still confused with fracking, and/or use of acid. Interesting that no fracking is planned, acid treatment is basically the same as utilised for locals to access clean water and the “thousands of wells” is pure speculation, not supported by any other previous UK on shore oil development.

    • They are having the same problem at Mission Springs Martin, somehow confusing acidising with fracking that has not been applied for.
      Never mind, at least they have had fun, yet again stealing land from some innocent party to set up their antifracking camp.

  3. I’ve yet to come across a lecturer that much worldy common sense. I know quite a few personally and they all live in a little bubble from having never left the protective blanket of education. They remind me of the little boys and girls that vote Corbyn (even though some of them are not so little in terms of height or age).
    You won’t find many centre of right thinking UK lecturers. A bit silly as the communistic left would lock them up the moment they got into power as happened in the likes of Czechoslovakia etc.

  4. “Through increasing oil and gas production”???

    So, if we produce oil from the Weald that increases world wide output of oil?

    No. It means we import less oil from somewhere else and thereby IMPROVE the environment as the carbon footprint is reduced. It also reduces the potential horrors of a maritime accident, such as the one whilst this case was waiting to come to court.

    Mind you, the saving the planet argument is a little odd when you consider a long trip simply to buy some cakes was the start point-talk about gratuitous consumption of resources.

    • It is easy to see where these recidivists would have stood, and perhaps still do stand, on the issue of the suffragette movement and considering that this year 2018, is the one hundredth anniversary of the suffragette movement, that we should be celebrating protest against suffrage by whatever methods including the democratically threatening and destructive fracking and its attendant avoidances of the word.

      Rather than the anti democratic attempts to criminalise protest just to protect a few demonstrably incompetent and failing onshore fracking companies. And that applies to any other term of the avoidance of the word fracking they desperately try to come up with.

      We should perhaps call such brave people who stand up for all our rights and to protect the entire planet from fracking, SuffraFracks.

        • It is said that history, or indeed herstory, is written, or rather rewritten by the victors.
          So perhaps in order to see that this particular his, or herstory, is not redacted and rewritten by the fractors, frackstory?
          We will just have to make sure we see off this obscene myth of safe fracking and get back to some sort of renewable natural energy sanity?

  5. Would’ve been nice to be acquitted but as the ‘law’ stands I think there was only so much he could do, a discharge with minimal costs wasn’t too bad and it felt like the judge wished he could have done more. He certainly seemed to have written a huge amount .

  6. yes and when the finish their little protest I bet the first thing they do is turn on the gas/oil heating anyone see the hypocrisy in that ?

    • ‘ I bet the first thing they do is turn on the gas/oil heating anyone see the hypocrisy in that ?’ be careful gasman, you might even beat MC for the most pointless 2018…..

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