Four men wait to find out if they face jail for anti-fracking lorry protest

pnr 170727 Ros Wills5

“Lorry surfing” protest near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, 27 July 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

Four campaigners who spent a total of 99 hours on top of lorries delivering to Cuadrilla’s shale gas site could become the first people to be jailed for an anti-fracking protest.

The four, who have been convicted of public nuisance, were in court for sentencing today. But the judge, His Honour Robert Altham, delayed his decision on whether they should go to prison until the morning (25/9/2018).

Rich Loizou, 31, a teacher from Devon, Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, a soil scientist, from Sheffield, and Richard Roberts, 36, a piano restorer from London, denied the offences at a seven-day trial in August. They were found guilty by a jury on 22 August and were told to expect immediate custodial sentences.

The fourth man, Julian Brock, 47, of Devon, had admitted the charge at a separate hearing.

They are believed to be the first anti-fracking campaigners to face a jail sentence for their protests.

Preston Crown Court heard that the public nuisance offence had no sentencing guidelines and very little legal precedent. DrillOrDrop report on prosecution submissions

Kirsty Brimelow QC, for Richard Roberts, said the cases quoted by the prosecution, where people had been jailed, were not relevant because they had not involved protests.

She said the court should take into account the motivation of the four men and the fact that this was a political protest. She said it would be the first time that the law on public nuisance had been used to jail environmental campaigners since the Kinder Scout mass trespass in 1932.

Ms Brimelow said the four were protesting not just for themselves but for future generations and the future of the planet.

“It is very important to keep very firmly in mind the context which is peaceful protest. The court should tread very carefully when dealing with public protest.

“Everyone has a right to freedom of expression. This can include campaigning in the road. It can include direct action protests.”

She said the judge should consider what she described as the “huge amount of evidence” about the likely damage from increased carbon emissions. 75 million people could be displaced and one in four species could become extinct in the coming decades, she said.

Ms Brimelow said the four sought to draw attention to the decision by the government to overrule Lancashire County Council, which had refused planning permission for fracking at the Preston New Road site.

She referred to a ruling by Lord Hoffmann, which said people who broke the law in support of firm beliefs were sometimes vindicated by history. He said:

“It is a mark of a civilised society that it can accommodate protest.”

The prosecutor, Craig MacGregor, had argued that the protest caused traffic disruption, inconvenience to businesses and additional costs.

But Ms Brimelow said the protest had not caused damage. Delays to motorists were caused as much by other protesters in the road as by the four men on the lorries, she said.

The protest lasted for almost 100 hours, from 25-29 July 2017. But Ms Brimelow said:

“It is significant that the level of disruption was predominantly on one day. Although the protest went on for four days, the traffic was flowing by 5pm on the first day.”

The police introduced a contraflow, which she said had been used regularly to accommodate protesters on Preston New Road at this time.

Mr Roberts’ lorry was on the centre part of the road and was not blocking the carriageway, she said. Mr Roberts had asked for the lorry to be moved to a nearby layby and had demonstrated that he could hold on safely while the vehicle was moving. But this had been refused by police.

Ms Brimelow also questioned whether the traffic management plan for the Preston New Road site had been working effectively, because Cuadrilla had given the police only 15 minutes notice of the convoy. Judge Altham described this as “a very unattractive submission”.

She also said the use music during the protest, which had been criticised by the prosecution, had been intended to create a carnival atmosphere.

Mr MacGregor had said lorry drivers had complained of being intimidated and of being required to stay in their cabs. But Ms Brimelow said this was not supported by the video evidence. She said Mr Roberts had developed a good relationship with the driver of the lorry he was on. That driver had spent some nights in a hotel and had been in and out of his cab. He had joked about the overtime, she said.

She said her client had a strong sense of civic duty and regularly worked for free on community projects. He was remorseful about the distress he had caused to people affected by the protest.

Charlotte Kenny, for Simon Blevins, said her client had very deeply held principles on environmental issues. He was greatly appreciated by academic colleagues at the University of Sheffield. He worked with children in disadvantaged part of the city and mentored young people, she said.

“I would ask whether it is in community’s and society interest to send him to prison. I ask your honour to draw back and suspend the sentence.”

Ms Kenny said Mr Blevins had been “shocked to the core”. The conviction would have a huge impact on his life.

Richard Brigden, for Rich Loizou, said his client should not be sentenced to prison because the road had been closed.

The footage showed Mr Loizou’s lorry was at the back of the convoy and was not in position that prevented anyone entering or leaving their homes, he said. Once protesters in the road had been removed the police introduced a contraflow and the traffic began to move.

He urged the judge:

“When you sentence it is important to look at Mr Loizou’s specific context. He was on top of the lorry for 45 hours. On the evidence of residents’ difficulties: he was down by then.

The hearing resumes at 10am tomorrow (26/9/2018) with more submissions from Mr Brigden, followed by sentencing later in the morning.

Prosecution submissions: 99-hour anti-fracking protest caused travel delays and cost £1,000, sentencing hearing told

Campaigners support four anti-fracking protesters at lorry-surf sentencing 

Reporting on this hearing has been made possible with individual donations from DtrillOrDrop readers

20 replies »

    • There will be a barrage of damaging PR heading towards the industry and the Conservative government if these 3 are jailed. A whopper of an own goal.

      Labour getting ready

      Thousands more wind farms would be built on land and at sea and a solar panel fitted to every “viable roof” by a Labour government as part of a “green jobs revolution” to be promised today by Jeremy Corbyn. Closing his party’s conference in Liverpool, the Labour leader will commit himself to a doubling of onshore wind turbines and a seven-fold rise in offshore wind generation if he becomes Prime Minister. His plans – which also include a massive programme of home insulation and a boost to electricity generated by solar energy – would be part of a drive to cut Britain’s net carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2030 and to zero by 2050.

      • John, I am sure even you understand that this is all hot air. Seven x zero = zero; 2 x zero = zero. So where does the back up come from, the demand power for heating / electricity / vehicles etc etc. if no gas / no coal / no mega batteries?

        The Labour model will also require many more nuclear plants – which you will all no doubt welcome. After all most swampies are also anti nuclear?

        Mind you, if [edited by moderator] IC guru are correct, fracked wells are very necessary for nuclear waste disposal? A three or four fold increase in nuclear will require a lot of fracked wells?

        But not to worry, Corbyn is spouting rubbish as his his right in opposition. The only Politician who actually does what he promises before being elected seems to be Trump…..

  1. Hope justice prevails and they are given a medal instead of jail. With all attention on fracking there is is a big forgetting, big amnesia in the Nukiller NW. It is not by accident that this forgetting has taken place. Duncan Ball was sentenced to two years for protesting against the nuclear industry and Sellafield in particular. . He served one year in prison. Duncan’s huge sacrifice is forgotten at all our peril here in the Nukiller NW.

    • Break the law and interfere with the rights to freedom of the road of others. Go prison, there are no exceptions, these are people who in their self righteous belief that they are exercising their right to free speech and in doing so denying the right of free speech and to use the public highway and the right for the general public to expect the police to uphold the law. The right to free speech calls for reason and the respect of other people’s rights too. It was an American judge who summed it up in another era told the accused person standing before him. “The right to freedom of speech does not mean that you can shout fire in a crowded room” !

  2. And MC will say today every deserving idio., sorry individual, will have a golden unicorn when he has power.

    But-there is always a but-no chance of that either. So, the unicorn breeders can find another revenue stream.

    There is a lesson there. The silent majority will decide, not a few who want to excite a few more.

      • What you call “the silent majority” couldn’t give a monkey’s about fracking. What they care about is their standard of living, latest technology, twitface, new car, two holidays a year, nice house, reliable electricity supply and 21deg C in their living room.

        People only care about “fracking” if it is near their home and they think it may impact their house price.

  3. JP – a Guardian article for you in case you missed it (or are you only worried about the Fylde?):

    Better fly over to China and protest (if flying is permitted).

    “Chinese power plants run on coal, thought to have been cancelled because of government edicts, are still being built and are threatening to “seriously undermine” global climate goals, researchers have warned.

    Satellite photos taken in 2018 of locations in China reveal cooling towers and new buildings that were not present a year earlier at plants that were meant to stop operations or be postponed by orders from Beijing.

    The projects are part of an “approaching tsunami” of coal plants that would boost China’s existing coal capacity by 25%, according to the research group Coalswarm.

    The total capacity of the planned coal power stations is about 259GW, bigger than the American coal fleet and “wildly out of line” with the Paris climate agreement, the group said in a new report.

    “This new evidence that China’s central government hasn’t been able to stop the runaway coal-fired power plant building is alarming – the planet can’t tolerate another US-sized block of plants to be built,” said Ted Nace, executive director of CoalSwarm, which is funded by international green groups and private donations.”

    As noted several times previously, don’t believe all that comes out of Indian and Chinese Politician’s mouths….

    Paris ???

  4. I also read a while ago Paul, that as part of Chinese “help” for developing countries they were planning to construct HUNDREDS of coal fired power stations overseas. Helpful chappies, while Donald takes the flack!

  5. Good I hope that they get some kind of penal punishment after all. they are challenging the judiciary to use the law, so they cannot complain if the law is applied. Although I am in favour of wind and tidal energy I wonder if anyone can be sure that these carry no climate risk ? In essence you do not get something for nothing in nature. Huge scale wind farms and deep tidal turbines are extracting energy from nature and changing the established balance. If you change a balance of nature then you will get an effect. Just cast your mind back to when they mined coal and then came petrol and then came plastics. They seemed so innocent, and advantageous at the time. but came back later to bite us on the bum. Can the experts, therefore, absolutely assure us that extracting energy from the natural wind flow or tidal flow will not in the future have a knock on effect such as increased melting of the ice caps, Or, more hurricanes, or ice ages

  6. As the Swansea Lagoon required a big chunk of the Lizard to be blown to pieces to obtain the granite chunks to build the lagoon, with those same chunks taken by ship around the coast to Swansea, I think you have a point Victor! The quarry concerned now sits within a marine preservation area, frequented by divers on a regular basis and a major breeding area for sea bass that used to thrive off this coast.

    And, of course no mandate from the locals, and the financial stability of the company behind the scheme questioned.

    Wind farms off the coast have also been an area where bird breeding and migration has been a serious issue.

    It does take time to get these new schemes right, and that time should be allowed otherwise public confidence will evaporate. Especially when they pay a premium. That is why oil and gas will be with us in UK for at least the next 30 years and we need to make the best of what we have over that period, not think we should simply pass the buck and import. That particular buck could cost a lot of Bucks, and jobs.

  7. Hi Martin, Thanks for your reply. Also big super tankers can burn up to 300 tons of oil a day to get from the gulf to the uk, so buying oil abroad as you say costs bucks and the environment. As far as fracking is concerned, where they anti’s quote climate change they are a bit convoluted because gas is a leaner burn v/v oil. I run my car on LPG. it is much cleaner for the environment, it would run equally well on shale gas (methane) . I have kept the car for 10 years now because it cost £2000 to convert but it has more than paid the cost over and over (current price of LPG is 69 pence per litre locally ) and it presents savings every day that I use it. Dipstick the oil and after 10 years, it is fresh not black like a petrol or diesel engine would be . Of course LPG has environmental issues but a plan to covert petrol engined cars to LPG could be pushed by Greenpeace (Not forgetting that organisation executives are also driving petrol and diesel engined cars) That would help in the interim until electric cars take over

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