Campaigner loses appeal over “act of conscience” protest

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Dr Peter Whittick on the rig lorry on 7 September 2017. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

A man who spent 10 hours on top of a rig lorry in protest to oil exploration has lost his appeal against conviction.

Dr Peter Whittick sought to overturn a previous guilty verdict by using a defence of conscientious protector, in one of the first cases of its kind.

But the judge at Hove Trial Centre, Shami Barnes, dismissed the appeal and increased Dr Whittick’s sentence.

After he hearing, Dr Whittick said:

“I am very disappointed that Judge Barnes so readily dismissed my evidence in relation to the threat of climate change and the contribution to it from this new wave of oil and gas exploration in the UK.”

The case dates backs to September 2017, when Dr Whittick climbed onto the rig lorry parked at Pease Pottage Services on the M23. It was moving the rig from the Broadford Bridge oil exploration site in West Sussex to another site in the county at Lidsey. (Background to the case)

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

Dr Whittick has registered as a conscientious protector, described as someone who cannot stand by in the face of environmental damage.

He told his original trial he wanted to raise awareness of what he saw as the threat of oil exploration to his community. He said:

“There was a deep calling that I had to take action as a matter of conscience.”

The judge at that case described Dr Whittick as a “man of conscience” but found him guilty of breaching Section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (consolidation) Act.

At the appeal hearing, which ended yesterday 5 July 2018), Dr Whittick’s sentence was increased from a 12-month conditional discharge  to 24 months. He was also ordered to pay costs of £220.

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Dr Whittick outside the Broadford Bridge site. Photo: Frack Free Sussex

Dr Whittick said:

“The impact of this level of industrialisation on our communities’ public health and the environment are real, and will have serious consequences for climate change.

“There is no social licence for this, and communities are being left in the dark with new government proposals threatening to take decisions about fossil fuel extraction completely out of local control.

“I am proud to be one of many legally registered conscientious protectors across the world prepared to take peaceful direct action as a last resort to prevent harm from being done to the earth and to the victims of climate change”.

A spokesperson from local residents’ group Keep Billingshurst Frack Free said,

 “Local people are very disappointed that the Judge chose not to acquit Dr Whittick today.

“Peter has lived in Sussex all his life and has campaigned tirelessly and peacefully to raise awareness of the dangers of oil and gas exploration and climate change.

“We look forward to a time when protecting the earth against harm is seen as our duty, not a crime”.

62 replies »

  1. It is time that we hold people responsible for their actions. When you violate others’ rights, you should pay the price.

    • Dodgy ground there I feel Dinosoup. For is it not a violation of rights to desecrate our countryside and impose health risks on us. We all have a right to clean air, clean water, and an inhabitable planet. Should we hold the oil and gas industry accountable for violating those rights given the irrefutable evidence that the continued consumption of fossil fuels is a serious threat to our very existence? What price do you feel that the oil and gas industry should pay for shortening the lives of those that inhale toxic chemicals? And what price do YOU feel to be appropriate for the desecration of our natural world? Give me some figures. Let’s take a look. I would also suggest that manufacturing arms and selling them to despotic regimes that massacre defenceless people might represent a fairly serious infringement of the basic rights of the massacred. So what price do you think that the British government should pay for that violation?

      • Jonathan, I don’t think it’s at all dodgy. Drillers aren’t violating anyone’s rights. If they were, then you would be violating the rights of others when you commuted to work, or took medicine, or heated your home. I have not seen any irrefutable evidence that the the continued consumption of fossil fuels is a serious threat to our existence. I HAVE seen irrefutable evidence that NOT having oil and gas would be a serious threat to billions of people. Desecration? How do you define that? Is it desecration to put up massive wind turbines all over the countryside? Is it desecration to use hundreds of thousands of acres for solar farms? Some people certainly think so.

        Given that most people wouldn’t exist without the oil and gas industry, I don’t feel that the industry should pay anything for its emissions, based on the fact that we burn their energy to make our lives better. It is a very privileged position to criticize the industry that provides life-giving resources to so many. Perhaps you are one of the few wealthy people who might survive without access to on-demand energy?

        Get your facts straight!

        • ‘Drillers aren’t violating anyone’s rights.’
          violations so far:
          The right to life- continued use of fossil fuel threatens us all. Threat to environment
          Inhuman treatment – those most affected said no through democratic process but overturned by puppet masters; stress, threat to family life. Right to peace for those in their own homes
          Liberty and freedom – those who protest, those who are imprisoned in their own homes as they are unable to move, life taken over having to stand up to their rights. Right to protest freely without intimidation
          Respect for privacy and family life; intrusion day and night from drilling operations, traffic, industrialization of the countryside; threat to lifestyle, future.
          Freedom of thought and belief – intimidation security, fake news and belittling of strength of resident’s conviction.

          Energy is one thing, how it is generated is another. We have enough dirty transition fuel, we don’t need anymore.

    • When you put people in fear for their families wellbeing, well that’s a crime to be dealt with!
      Doing whatever you can to protect them, without causing physical harm or real distress to the other party, is actually your duty!
      To be fair the doubling of a suspended sentence isn’t exactly harsh though I believe when all this fracking rubbish is over, all non-violent protestors should be pardoned.

          • And this is supposed to be from someone who claims to be able recognise “normal”? And also an interesting admission that the industry is “fracking rubbish” Sherwulfe? Out of the mouths of……slaves?

  2. There you go bandying around that word hypocrisy again Martin. Do you absolutely require anyone that is concerned about climate change to ride a horse? Many politicians hold different views to our current government, and many also believe that our current system of government needs radical change in order to better represent the people that it allegedly serves. Are such politicians hypocrites too, for participating in the political process that they have grievous concerns about rather than taking a decision to opt out of it entirely? Given a viable alternative I’m sure that Pete would have made use of it, and would have gladly paid more to have done so. Where’s your compassion amigo? Pete, I believe, was at the service station to buy a cake for someone else. An act of kindness.

  3. ‘Section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (consolidation) Act.’ – the very name and use of this ‘Act’ displays the nature of our current governance and it’s attitude towards people.

    As I have said before, those who have stood up to tyranny and oppression will be perceived as ‘outside of the law’ until those who realise the manipulation of our rights as humans make pains to change the law.

    Those who perpetuate these injustices, including the paid voices of so called justice will eventually fail. Our great/grandparents and their brothers and sisters did not die in two great wars for us to lie down and accept oppression.

  4. “An act of kindness”.

    You obviously believe so. Others don’t. However, he wasn’t in Court for buying cakes. He was in Court for conducting a criminal act whilst he was “buying cakes”. Good job he didn’t hear voices against Mr. Kipling otherwise he might have decided direct action should be made upon those cakes.

    What I find quite revealing is the “poster” persons the antis now embrace. I have every sympathy with those locals who want to object in a sensible and proportionate way, but now the “movement” is controlled by other individuals. You can applaud them all you like, but then injunctions are served which restricts the poster persons but also everyone else. And then you whinge about lack of democracy but society will always find means to deal with those who want to operate outside of society. Anarchy is somewhat different, but most societies find a way to deal with that also.

    Using the football metaphor, you have a few within your supporters who think they can do what they want and all supporters from that club are likely to be sanctioned. The wider public will simply see it as deserved.

    • You can always tell when they have lost the argument when they get personal, sad sad desperation.

      It seems that once “certain peoples” eyes have been blinkered closed to anything remotely resembling “normal”, that they can never be opened again? Atrophied shut through lack of use i guess? Like the empathy response?

      As for “poster boy” theirs is a self confessed alchemist trying to turn shale and people and their land air and water into gold and their “movement” has more to do with bowels……..”bowels of the earth” that is, than anything to do with intelligence or human values.

      And these are the type of people we are supposed to hand the future of our children, our country and our planet to?

      Not a chance.

      Not without the industry standard issue prerequisite post frontal robotomy, resulting from too many “pot holes” and alchemical magic herbal books will do that, and it invariably produces dissolutions of inadequacy and an obsessive fascination with magic hallucinogenic cakes?

  5. 1) NO fracking has occurred – MORE FAKE NEWS. Im surprised you remainers didnt blame it on BREXT
    [edited by moderator]
    2) how many of the hypocrites protesting drive ‘chelsea tractors i wonder
    3) I would happily see the return of NUCLEAR WINFRITH and more oil and gas driling in dorset
    (Provided none of that fuel ever goes to those hypocritical fanatics)

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