Legal

Breaking: three men jailed for 99-hour anti-fracking lorry protest near Cuadrilla’s shale gas site

pnr 170725 Reclaim the power1

Lorry surfing protest near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site on 25 July 2017. Photo: Reclaim the Power

Three men who took part in what’s believed to be the longest single anti-fracking protest in the UK have been sent to prison.

The packed public gallery at Preston Crown Court listened in silence as the judge sentenced Richard Roberts and Simon Blevins to 16 months and Rich Loizou to 15 months.

Women began singing as the men were led away. Outside the court, anti-fracking campaigners, some in tears, said they were devastated by the sentences. DrillOrDrop report on reaction

A fourth man, Julian Brock, who also took part in the protest was given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.

The four had climbed onto lorries delivering to Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire in July 2017 and stayed there for a total of 99.5 hours.

The three who received jail sentences are thought to be the first people to be sent to prison for taking part in a UK anti-fracking protest. The barrister for one of them said it was the first time that the law on public nuisance had been used against environmental campaigners since the Kinder Scout mass trespass in 1932.

Passing sentences on Mr Blevins, Mr Roberts and Mr Loizou, his Honour Judge Altham said:

“I do find they provide a risk of re-offending.

“Each of them remains motivated by unswerving confidence that they are right. Even at their trial they felt justified by their actions.

“Given the disruption caused in this case, only immediate custody can achieve sufficient punishment.”

He said the three would serve half the sentence in custody and half on licence.

Judge Altham said the protest had caused cost and disruption to Cuadrilla. But added:

“Other victims were other members of the public who had nothing to do with Cuadrilla or fracking, who suffered significant inconvenience which must have been considered by these defendants as justifiable collateral damage.”

The judge acknowledged that fracking was a “matter of legitimate concern”. He said:

“These defendants did what they did from sincerely-held beliefs and this does mitigate the sentence.”

But he said the three had crossed the line of what was acceptable protest by persisting in their action for so long. He said:

“No cause can trump every consideration and everyone’s rights.”

Mr Loizou, 31, a teacher from Devon, Mr Blevins, 26, a soil scientist, from Sheffield, and Mr Roberts, a piano restorer from London, had denied the charge of public nuisance but had been found guilty after a seven-day trial ending on 22 August 2018.

Mr Brock, 47, from Torquay, had pleaded guilty to the same offence at an earlier hearing.

The court heard that the protest, known as lorry surfing, started at 8.06am on 25 July 2017 when Richard Roberts climbed on to the first lorry in the convoy on the A583 as it approached Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site. He was followed soon after by Rich Loizou, who mounted the last lorry in the line.

Prosecutor, Craig MacGregor, said the A583, the main road from Blackpool to Preston, was brought to a standstill in both directions.

At 3.18pm on the same day, Simon Blevins climbed on to the second vehicle in the convoy. Julian Brock climbed onto his vehicle in the early hours of the morning of 26 July 2017.

The men came down at different times, starting with Rich Loizou, at 5.10am on 27 July 2017. He had been on his lorry for 45 hours and 6 minutes. Simon Blevins came down at 4.45pm on 28 July after 73 hours and 27 minutes.

Richard Roberts came down at 8.13pm on 28 July, after 84 hours and 19 minutes. The final protester to come down from his vehicle was James Brock, on 29 July at 11.35am, after 76 hours.

The total duration of the protest was 99 hours and 31 minutes.

Mr MacGregor had told the court that bus services and private journeys were disrupted during the protest.

Live maggots had to be barrowed to the World of Water business on Preston New Road. One woman had described how they had to wait for buses for 45 minutes, before giving up. Two days later, she caught a bus but on the way home it dropped her off short of her usual destination and she had to walk an hour and a half to get home.  She was sick when she got home and had to go to bed.

Lorry drivers were stuck in their cabs, unable to return home, he said, although this was disputed by barristers for the four protesters.

Mr MacGregor added that the protest had cost Lancashire Police £12,000 and Cuadrilla £50,000.

One of the lorry companies involved in the protest said it would not deliver to the site again.

The protest took part during a month of actions co-ordinated by the national group, Reclaim the Power.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, for Richard Roberts, said the court should take into account the motivation of the four men and the fact that this was a political protest.

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.”

She had referred to a ruling by Lord Hoffmann, who said:

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

She disputed that the protest had caused damage and said disruption was predominantly on the first of the four days. The traffic delays were caused partly by other protesters in the road, she said.

Richard Brigden, the barrister for Rich Loizou, said his client held genuine views that were not extreme:

“It is a view that in other European countries would be supported by the government”.

A group of around 60 anti-fracking campaigners gathered outside the court for the start of the hearing yesterday. Supporters of the four men said hundreds of online messages had been received.

Reaction coming soon

Reports from hearing on 25 September 2018

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

Defence submissions: Anti-fracking campaigners wait to find out if they face jail for 99-hour lorry protest

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

Reporting from this hearing has been made possible by the donations of individual DrillOrDrop readers

Categories: Legal

133 replies »

  1. If you wish to wallow in a swamp of grievance, do it on your own Jono.

    Even when something like this happens, causing real harm to individuals and their families, you want to make capital out of it. [Edited by moderator] Some of the most committed antis warned of the dangers when this sort of activity started, together with those who were not anti. Perhaps they should have been listened to, rather than try and switch the blame to those who don’t share your view.

    • Martin[edited by moderator] since when have you spoken or been inside the minds of those opposed to fracking? Do yourself a favour, you just appear a complete idiot with such statements. None here give a flying fuk what you think. What we care about is people who, like us, have ethical and environmental concerns who put their own lives and freedom on the line for their beliefs. It matters not a jot whether we approve of their specific actions or endorse it. We care because we are feeling people, who have sympathy for others, for local communities and our local and wider environment. You don’t, so why don’t you leave it to us – it’s you who is not only in a minoroity here but on the wrong side of history [edited by moderator]

  2. Unbelievable. I can’t say what I really think so I’ll also just put [edited by moderator] to save you some time.

  3. Good, about time. An important message sent. Of course if they had pleaded guilty in the first place they probably wouldn’t be going to prison (as in the case of the fourth person).

    Congratulations to “reclaim the Power”. Perhaps they will refund the Police, the Courts and Cuadrilla?

    And these cases were before the injunctions? More evidence in favour of injunctions.

    And Jono, [edited by moderator] I expect my views are very similar to the “silent majority” who will not put up with this.

  4. Brilliant – unfortunate for these 3 guys but a solid warning to any other idiots who think they can get away with this behaviour..

      • Disagree – they have gradually gotten braver thinking they can get away with it – this will make them re-evaluate. The sentiment will never get any better towards oil/ gas – to much fake information/ propaganda online

    • Paul, I would post a personal comment on you, the quality of your comments, [edited by moderator], your lack of logic and inability to pursue a sensible argument, but I am sure my comment would be deleted. [edited by moderator]

      • Alan,

        Which part of my comment do you disagree with? “Good, about time. An important message sent. Of course if they had pleaded guilty in the first place they probably wouldn’t be going to prison (as in the case of the fourth person).

        Congratulations to “reclaim the Power”. Perhaps they will refund the Police, the Courts and Cuadrilla?

        And these cases were before the injunctions? More evidence in favour of injunctions.

        And Jono, [edited by moderator] I expect my views are very similar to the “silent majority” who will not put up with this.”

        Are you advocating that these people who broke the law, probably egged on by others, including Reclaim the Power, should not face justice? Is this not a sensible comment? Do you and your friends live in a different judicial jurisdiction?

        It’s time Cuadrilla were allowed to complete their authorised work, determine if there is a viable shale gas project and move on. All your local experts keep telling us there is no economical shale gas onshore UK. That maybe so, but we don’t know yet. After these two wells are tested we will know one way or the other. I spent nearly 40 years working on exploration and development projects and know very well that no one really knows if the Fylde shale gas is commercial or not. But these two wells will go a long way to determining that. Perhaps seismicity will shut the whole thing down, perhaps not. Being one of the few, if not the only person on this BB who has actually managed large hydraulic fracturing operations one would have thought that my input was useful. But I discovered a long time ago that those opposed to this have no interest in the technical side. Nor do they have any interest in the wider, global picture. Using climate change, global warming, Paris, Corbyn’s latest BS, etc etc to save the planet (or is it just the Fylde) and generally having no understanding of what is really happening in the world makes you all look like Notting Hill Guardian readers (perhaps that is a compliment?).

        Personally I don’t think there will be a large onshore shale gas development in the Fylde due to the potentially high density of wells which may be required and the logistics associated with that. But we will have a better idea soon enough.

  5. Today the court jails protectors for daring to care about our environment, our health and the wellbeing of future generations. Despite all government claims that it is “Listening,” “Learning Lessons” and “Caring for our Environment,” the truth is nothing has changed in the last 100 years.

    Last night United Utilities advertised on TV, telling us to be careful with our use of water – (don’t spend so long in the shower, have shallower baths, use less water to wash your dishes) – yet provide millions of gallons for fracking.

    In the year 2018 it’s official – people don’t matter. We’re an inconvenience to be financially probed, taxed and discarded. I hope that the police, the courts and the government realise what they’ve done. They’re forever saying that they can only operate with the help of the public. Well here’s one member of the public who will never again raise so much as an eyebrow in assistance. In fact quite the reverse, if there’s a danger I might be of help I’ll rapidly walk away.

    • No they didn’t get locked up for caring for the environment they got locked up for breaking the law [edited by moderator]. If you are going support the anti-fracking movement please tell me how you fuel your cars or heat your house…
      I hope you computer / smart phone / TV etc are made of wood….hypocrites…

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