Legal

Rig protest was “act of conscience”, says campaigner appealing conviction

170907 Pease Pottage UKOG Rig Eddie Mitchell4

Rig lorry protest at Pease Pottage services. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

An anti-drilling campaigner who spent a night on top of a rig lorry “as an act of conscience” is appealing against his court conviction.

Dr Peter Whittick, who climbed on to the lorry while it was parked at a motorway services, denied hindering the rig owner from carrying out its lawful business.

But he was convicted after a one-day trial in Brighton in February 2018 (DrillOrDrop report).

His appeal begins this morning (Wednesday 4 July 2018) at Hove Trial Centre. He is expected to be supported by opponents of oil and gas drilling across southern England.

Dr Whittick has registered as a conscientious protector, described as someone who cannot stand by in the face of environmental damage. He is expected to use this argument as part of his appeal. The case is due to last three days.

“Flagrant breach”

Dr Whittick argued at his trial that the company that had been using the rig at Broadford Bridge in West Sussex had broken conditions of its planning permission on delivery and working hours.

He told the court:

“I could not stand by and allow a flagrant breach of planning permission that was not being addressed by the county council.”

“My concern is that if the breaches of permission we were reporting are not being acted upon it is difficult to have confidence that more serious breaches are being picked up”

170907 Pease Pottage UKOG Rig Eddie Mitchell2

Pease Pottage Services, West Sussex, 7 September 2017. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

The protest took place at the Pease Pottage motorway services on the M23 in West Sussex in September 2017. The rig was being transported from the Broadford Bridge site to another in the county at Lidsey.

Dr Whittick said he went to the motorway services to buy some cakes and saw the rig in the car park.

He said at this trial:

“My concern was that there was a threat to the community. I wanted to raise awareness but also within me there was a deep calling that I had to take action as a matter of conscience.

“I was there by a coincidence and it had to be me that did it.”

Dr Whittick climbed onto the rig at about 2.30am and stayed for about 10 hours. He came down unaided at around midday. He said the rig lorry had left the Broadford Bridge site outside permitted hours and the scheduled arrival at Lidsey would also have breached planning conditions.

170907 Pease Pottage UKOG Rig Eddie Mitchell3

Rig protest, Pease Pottage services, West Sussex, 7 September 2017. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

The District Judge at the trial, Christopher James, described Dr Whittick as “a man of conscience” but he said the campaigner had “crossed a line” The movement of the rig on public roads was lawful and the protest had resulted in “substantial interference in the rights of the rig owner.”

DJ James found Dr Whittick guilty of breaching Section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (consolidation) Act and conditionally discharged him for 12 months.

The case was used by the exploration company, UK Oil and Gas, as evidence in its current case at the High Court yesterday, where that company is seeking an injunction against protests. (DrillOrDrop)

The Green Party MEP for south east England, Keith Taylor, supported Dr Whittick’s appeal today:

“There is no question that Pete was acting to prevent further harm. Pete’s courageous stand is in the long tradition of non-violent direct action taken against the very real threats posed to our environment and climate from fracking and oil and gas drilling.

“I’ve met Pete and can vouch for his genuine passion for defending his community and the planet by fighting to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

24 replies »

  1. Hoping and praying that this just defence allows the judiciary to finally recognise the ongoing environmental chaos perpetrated by the oil and gas industry which must be challenged in the courts if we are to avoid mass extinction/ecocide.
    Thank you Dr Peter Whittick – may justice be with you.

    • I wonder if he drove to the service station / owns a car? Electric car? Perhaps / perhaps not. Off grid like Sherwulfe – possibility but not likely. I trust you Suzie are doing your bit to prevent mass extinction / ecocide by not using any hydrocarbon based products including plastics / grid electricity / gas for cooking and heating? If you are you, you are facilitating our mass extinction / ecocide. Terrible…..

      • You trying to play that tired old hypocrisy card again Paul? We lack choices, that is why people such as Pete have to have recourse to gas guzzlers. Modern life simply ain’t practical with just a well nourished donkey. What was it that Oscar Wilde said about sarcasm? ………..

      • The court made the right decision. the Rig owner is a separate entity. to the oil company. His interest is to supply drilling equipment to whoever requires it. by transporting it over public roads. the rights & wrongs over who is drilling for oil gas water is not his concern. he is trying to make a living hiring out drilling equipment. so to have some idiot putting his livelihood at risk. because they have a problem with his customer is not right. & is certainly not lawful.

        • I would respectfully refer Mr Martin Collyer to my previous implicit quotation of Oscar Wilde ………..

        • Not sure about that line of argument Gasman. The UK’s interest is to manufacture bombs for the use of Saudis to massacre Yemeni civilians? We are simply trying to make a living? The actions of any pick-pocket or petty thief might be seen to be justified were that to be held to be a reasonable line of argument.

        • Thats the problem Katherine – you and your friends cannot see the “bigger picture”. There is not one intewrnational forecast that does not show hydrocarbons demand increasing globally for many years, gas longer than oil. The UK can go back to the Middle Ages tomorrow and it will not make any difference to global climate change. It is happening, it is coming, get used to it. The UK, even Europe, will not make any significant difference. Look at the National Grid FE scenarios – the third one includes UK shale gas. We don’t know if this will happen or not as we don’t know if there is any commercial shale gas in the UK yet. Most anti posters tell us it is not commercial, ponzi scheme etc etc. If this is the case why are you all getting in such a flap, spending thousands of pounds on JRs and appeals etc.? Perhaps Enemies of Industry and Greenpeas are secretly worried that this may be commercial?

          ” Gas is critical to security of supply now and as Britain continues the transition to a low carbon future. It will have a long-term role as a flexible, reliable and cost-effective energy source favoured by many consumers”

          http://fes.nationalgrid.com/media/1245/fes-in-5-for-web.pdf

          We could take bets on which FES pans out?

          The bigger picture is that there are hundreds of millions of people on this planet who aspire to what we have. You might not like consumerism but it is human nature. These people in India, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia (then Africa) want what we take for granted, cars, holidays, TVs, golf etc etc. The Paris agreement will not stop this happening.

          I have spent enough time overseas, including living in Vietnam and Africa, to witness these changes first hand. The million commuters into downtown Ho Chi Minh City used to ride push bikes when I arrived. When I left they were mostly riding two stroke motor bikes. Now I understand the move is to cars – and I can assure you these are not hybrids or EVs. The same in India.

          • ‘The UK can go back to the Middle Ages tomorrow’ – this view that we would ‘go back’ is just industry speak, we are moving forward and with cleaner energy. Take another look at the world Paul. The consumerism is driven by the top 5% [which included you and me] for the top 5%. Many countries coming on line are not contributing to this fiasco.

            The biggest picture is that billions of people on this planet do not aspire to what we have, dirty technology, pollution, sugar! These are the future; if we do not join them we will destroy ourselves. Rome was not built in a day, but sure as hell didn’t take long to fall.

    • ‘Dr Whittick has registered as a conscientious protector, described as someone who cannot stand by in the face of environmental damage.’
      – to disrupt your life for a just cause is noble; it’s what those through history, that we admire the most, have done. The law has not caught up with the importance of our world yet, so sadly your act, like many who have stood up to oppression, will be classed as outlaw. One day this will change. For now, respect.

      • Sorry Sherwulfe, I have seen it first hand. My Vietnamese staff were addicted to Premier League football – and the time difference was several hours. I don’t recognise the “billions” who do not aspire to what we have. They are certainly not in Vietnam / China / India…… This may be what you want to believe but unfortunately you are wrong.

        The world will move forward but will continue to use hydrocarbons in increasing quantities, there will be a peak and then a decline when alternative technologies / materials are available (and reliable).

        An example of a material which may help is Graphene:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphene

        Already being put to good use (and replacing hydrocarbons, at least some of them in the product):

        https://www.inov-8.com/graphene

        • Ah yes, the miracle graphene; developed in the UK and given away…again.

          Perhaps we should stop taking our eye off the ball, no longer looking backwards to dino fuels, and start building a country that truly invests in itself? Alternative technologies are already available and reliable. It’s the puppet masters that are stopping the governance from taking up the reins of a very powerful horse; time to learn to ride Paul.

  2. So he trundled along to buy cakes in the early hours (how?), with (incorrect) banners in his pockets, and dressed to protect from the elements!

    Yep-we all do that, all of the time.

    “There by coincidence” yet he knew what time the rig had left BB?

    Wonder how these people will get to the Courts?

  3. “We lack choices”??!!

    Well, let them eat toast-to modify an old statement.

    Saves travelling the motorways in the middle of the night to buy cake. If ever there was a definition of careless consumption, that about sums it up. How much CO2/cake? Let’s start slow walking and lock-ons targeting Mr. Kipling.

  4. I think that if someone decides his course of action is okay whilst the other person does not consent and indeed demands it ceases, then the first person deserves to be sanctioned. Believe that is applied in law.

    Of course, an Appeal can also decide the original decision was too lenient!

  5. Sorry, Sherwulfe. You need to get on grid and then you may have a clue what is happening in the wider world.

    Paul is exactly right about what is happening across the world. Anyone who has examined world trends sees the huge increase from peasants to middle classes. Ironically, much of it being driven by the West moving large chunks of it’s supply off-shore! (eg. Indian call centres for BT, Banks, then supply chains etc.)

    Those middle classes (billions of them) consume just the same as other middle classes around the world.

    How easy it seems for some to move from slight adjustments of local issues to wholesale attempts at changing world realities to make the bits fit!

    • Martin, ‘You need to get on grid and then you may have a clue what is happening in the wider world’ –
      been there done that, thrown the T Shirt in the recycle.

      Why am not surprised you refer to those not in the consumer club as ‘peasants’? And you will need to define class; this concept only exists in academia, whilst people get on with their lives.

  6. More fog.

    I have studied with people from across the world. Did they come to the UK from their villages to learn but return and tell their relatives about how misguided those in the West were? No, they wished to get new ideas regarding technical developments and return and introduce them, so that the standard of living could match that in the West. They certainly would not be patronised with your twaddle about class. Their idea about class was to be able to fund a school so a class was a possibility. They wanted to be able to fund health care and hospitals so their children lived the same life span they saw in the West. They wanted the grid to reach their communities. It would take many generations before any of their off-spring would ever consider going back off grid because there would be a memory that linked to a life expectancy below 40.

    No lack of understanding. Been there? Well, then you have no excuse to be so dismissive of other peoples aspirations. Try getting a TV and checking out drowning economic migrants in the Med. and then perhaps you will not have a lack of understanding and compassion. Forget the tourist myopia and look at the reality. Oh, forgot-that is uncomfortable for the antis.

    • Your faux bleeding heart hypocrisy is glaring MC. How many more asylum seekers, as well as economic migrants, will risk drowning, if not already drowning in coastal and island communities, due to sea-level rise caused by extreme anthropogenic climate change? What about deforestation for unnecessary palm oil and intensively farmed livestock for rich, state-capitalist countries’ exploitation of 3rd world resources? And all thanks to selfish, compassionless, consumerist culture, propagated by the West and now increasingly authoritarian governments in China and India. However, these countries too have majorities of poorer people who want to protect their natural commons. And their rich elites have no right to take that from them, just because they want to ape the follies of the short-sighted West. Until we get rid of anti-democratic, “might is right” state governments and introduce more grown-up direct democracy, based on consensus decision making, we’ll continue to promote a foolish, rich minority class, controlling all the wealth and power to the detriment of the majority. This gives the rest of us no choice but to live with finite fossil fuel consumption and destruction. Instead of listening to the minority of those supporting fracking, we should be transitioning to a greener economy. It’s not all or nothing, but we haven’t got aeons of time to sort this out and the transition needs to happen much quicker. Your old world vision MC is leading to an uninhabitable world hell. The old cliche is still true no matter what you say: you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet – it really is each according to need not greed. That involves recycling, not linear extraction and destruction, putting nothing back for future generations, and I’m not talking about putting your recycling box out every 2 weeks!

      • Well said DPNP.

        For Martin:
        The humans you refer to as migrants are coming here along a well trodden path to the land of milk and honey, seen daily on their phones.

        Corrupt individuals take all they have and more [modern slavery] with the promise of a ‘better’ life.

        Your comments are at the level we have come to expect of you. These are not peasants but people. They have had their homes destroyed due to oil wars; they have no food due to conflict induced by greed; they are dying due to lack of food due to climate change and no amount of Bob Geldof and his crew can help them long term.

        The longer you continue to consume the planet, the more and more will arrive, it’s just nature and you cannot stop it.

  7. Ignorance must be really blissful, in the fantasy world.

    So many completely out of contact with reality.

    When you sit down to eat your boiled eggs and expect a nice golden yolk, do you realise that is produced by ladies picking marigolds in fields in Thailand? Yes, an improved lifestyle, because previously they would have been traded into the Bangkok brothels, to entertain Western tourists. However, still a pretty tough way to make a living. Try talking to them and their families (I have) about what sort of future they would like, not what you think should be good for them. They quite like the fact that Thailand is one of the world’s largest (industrialised) poultry producers providing protein for them, export revenue and further jobs for their families, and find the condescending remarks of a few in the West baffling and insulting and see it as simply another example of colonialism. Those with a chicken house now added to their small holding, with a contract with the regional company, can now have a house to live in, rather than live in with the animals-I have seen both, and know which is preferred. You must have spoken with some others DPNP!

    (Yes, Sherwulfe can keep a few hens to keep the foxes happy and fat and feed them a few cabbages, but that is not reality for the majority.)

  8. Interesting you chose Thailand MC, another increasingly autocratic monarchist state with its lese majeste law. Maybe if these workers were given the opportunity on a farm with better working conditions, they would be much prouder of that? Plus, if we keep on burning and destroying the planet there won’t be much of any industry to exploit rather than sustain. You are clearly very short-sighted MC and not looking at the bigger picture, only through your narrow self-affirming blinkers. You obviously didn’t talk to these workers from this Thai chicken factory or do a very deep investigation in to worker’s rights in Thailand: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/07/thailand-burmese-workers-trial-reporting-abuses and https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-labour-rights/myanmar-workers-go-on-trial-for-accusing-thai-chicken-farm-of-abuse-idUSKBN1FR2FZ

    Their fishing and fruit industry is pretty appalling too: https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/01/23/hidden-chains/rights-abuses-and-forced-labor-thailands-fishing-industry and https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/jan/22/human-rights-thailand-andy-hall-legal-battle-migrant-workers

    Maybe you should try talking to the local Karen communities in Myanmar who’ve had their livelihoods, health and environment destroyed by Palm Oil companies stealing the land from them. They’re fighting for compensation. You really do live in another universe MC, the cloud cuckoo land of elite big business, patronising people to accept our economic model for their “benefit”. How condescending and arrogant is that? This industry doesn’t even condescend and claim they know what’s best for them economically, but actively force their industry on them against their will, in fact treat them like crap and destroy their livelihoods: https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/palm-oil-projects-destroy-local-livelihoods-report.html

    These are just a few examples of a vast industry of exploitation and destruction for rich elites.

    Obviously, being part of a more sustainable industry, friendly to workers and the environment is preferable, unless you are some sort of sociopath who enjoys enslaving people and destroying their health and local environment? Oops, I forgot, you are pro-fracking!

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