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)
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.
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”.