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. Let’s put a bit of perspective to this.

    If antis sped along the motorways at 100mph to get to PNR, would the police and courts be expected to ignore the fact they were breaking the law, on the basis they were a particular grouping? Sorry, not going to happen. Are those same courts ignorant of crowd funding, allowing criminal activity to be conducted without the individual being penalised? Sorry, not going to happen.

    For those who want to claim the moral high ground based on that sort of platform, good luck. But, sorry, not going to happen.

    For those of us not anti Jack, most of us are not anti protesting, (most of us have done a bit of it) we are just anti the escalation from peaceful protest to mob rule. The problem with that, is once it starts who decides where it stops? In reality, the police and courts. That is the way we PREVENT a fascist state.

  2. Much as I oppose this form of intrusive protest, I really can’t see the point of sending the guys to prison. It will make them heroes to their supporters and just costs the taxpayer money. Better off with a lengthy community service order or maybe a suspended sentence.

  3. Much as I oppose this form of intrusive protest, I really can’t see the point of sending the guys to prison. It will make them heroes to their supporters and just costs the taxpayer money. Better off with a lengthy community service order or maybe a suspended sentence. I suspect the sentences will be reduced on appeal.

    • What is costing the taxpayer millions is the daily presence of dozens of police officers. Football clubs have to pay the police ,I believe to attend matches. Quadrillashould be paying the policing costs if they wish to destroy our environment

      • Steve
        Lots of oil and gas activity takes place with no police present. There is none at your local petrol station, for example. There is often none at Misson and Tinkers Lane.

        Should some protestors turn up at Chelsea and sit on the pitch in order to protest against the playing of football, prevented players training, or whatever, then the police presence would not be funded by the clubs.

        Imagine, a convoy of lorries carrying synthetic turf surfed at a truck cafe in order to delay the relaying of a pitch..policing paid for by the club? Nope.

        But if RTP ever play Cuadrilla at football, then I would expect both sides to fund any required police presence.

  4. Shalewatcher-the law has always needed to operate as a deterrent to others following a particular road. It doesn’t always do so, but it can, when it feels the need is there.

    I think with 350 arrests then “pushing your luck” on expecting that not to happen, is a phrase that comes to mind.

  5. “Potential for negative health impacts”!!!!

    Sorry Paul, that is not a strong argument for or against just about everything the human race does daily. If some are to start deciding on those sort of silly criteria then we can get rid of fire, child birth, the wheel, farming, aeroplanes, electricity, crossing the road, Viagra and doing the Lottery! Who is paying for such “expert” conclusions to be fed to us and who actually believes such garbage?

    Death is the alternative to life, but whilst we live we face negative health impacts every day. Err, that’s why we die.The question is do the benefits of a risk outweigh the potential impacts. Many of us want to be able to determine that in reality, rather than pay somebody to state the Bl*****ly obvious, and for others then to think it points to wisdom.

    • Martin , im sure someone once said the same about asbestos and tobacco , cladding on tower blocks , lead water pipes and micro beads of plastic . All pushed by industry with the possibility of health impacts , the trouble is , people like you don’t listen and would rather nobody else did .

      • By the same token, those intent on disruptive protest were warned it may not be good for their health. They didn’t listen either and look what has happened to them!

      • Jono
        It is about risk. If tower block cladding were asbestos it would not catch fire.

        Lead water pipes were not pushed by any industry in my living memory, but piped clean water was a boon at the time, even tho it may come through lead pipes ( and many houses are still connected to the mains by lead pipe ).

        Soon replaced by copper and now plastic ( heavens ).

        Re micro beads, good to see their use reduced and hopefully soon to be got rid of. Likewise tobacco, but which industry is pushing cannabis and spice?

        • Ask David Lenigas about cannabis , im no expert on spice so I cant point you to anything on that subject other than to question why unfortunate folk need to use it . Im glad you seem to agree about plastic tho as that is the main reason for INEOS wanting to frack . Its all about greed whichever way you look at it , I bet Jim Ratcliffe is enjoying a tax free Monaco eh ?

  6. You mean the asbestos that helped the UK to remain free during WW2, Jono? (Check Royal Navy.) Tobacco that rightly/wrongly helped USA to develop as a sanctuary to many oppressed in other parts of the world, lead water pipes that did for the Romans but was the start of clean water distribution around the world, micro beads of plastic that is just a very simple problem to solve but is more valuable to some to indicate it isn’t. Come on, you can do better than that.

    People like me-oh how some like to sneer and claim superiority-love to listen. Then we identify solutions, rather than ban anything instead of finding those solutions. It’s called progression. That’s the strength of the human. We learn, we mitigate, we adapt/improve and we progress.

  7. By the way Jono, been to visit a building site recently, replaced your guttering, tried to improve drainage of millions of hectares of agricultural land for food production ? Incubators in the maternity ward? PLASTIC. Now, they even want to dig up plastic landfill to turn into fuel-first one about to get underway in Belgium and many hundreds being checked out in UK.

    Jim already Sir-Saint next?

  8. “The judge noted that Blevins, a soil scientist, told jurors “without a trace of irony” that he came down because he needed to be at work the following Monday.

    He said a significant feature in his case was that while under investigation for the Preston New Road incident he went on to climb on top of another lorry at a similar protest in Yorkshire and later pleaded guilty to vehicle tampering.”

    “Local businesses and residents were affected, said the judge who cited in particular the case of an elderly and disabled female resident at a nearby housing park who relied on a bus to go shopping.

    He said the woman was forced to alight short of her destination on her return journey and had to walk 90 minutes on crutches before she arrived home and was sick.

    The lorry drivers also had to sit out the protest as they felt obliged to stay in their vehicles as one or more of them became “sitting ducks” for intimidation from other campaigners, the judge said.”

    Missing in the DOD report?

      • R8 – I wasn’t there so not 100% sure the above quotes are correct but I assume Ruth or Paul were so perhaps they can clarify this?

    • Dear Paul
      Thank you for your comment.
      I have checked my notes. You are right. During the sentencing hearing, the prosecution barrister summarised evidence from an elderly woman who had told the trial that she had to walk for 90 minutes when a bus dropped short of her usual destination.
      Reporting is always about selecting which information to include, often at speed and in difficult circumstances.
      In retrospect, I think the evidence from this woman should have been included in my report and I have now added it.
      I accept that I don’t always get things right. But I am always ready to correct or update pieces when I think I was wrong.
      Thanks again for your comment.
      Best wishes, Ruth

      • What about Blevins having climbed onto another lorry in Yorkshire? Fairly pertinent to showing the level of anarchy this individual was happy to engage. He even admitted to vehicle tampering on that occasion but didn’t have the backbone to plead guilty for his second such offence. No wonder the judge handed down the sentences he did when the jury found them guilty.

      • Thanks for the clarification Ruth. What about this bit:

        “He said a significant feature in his case was that while under investigation for the Preston New Road incident he went on to climb on top of another lorry at a similar protest in Yorkshire and later pleaded guilty to vehicle tampering.”

        My source was Energy Voice:

        It appears the sentences were custodial and imposed because Blevins had already re-offended.

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