Legal

Shock at lorry protest jail sentences but anti-fracking campaigners vow to fight on

180926 lorry surf statements DoD

After the sentencing at Preston Crown Court, family members of the men sent to prison read statements. Photo: DrillOrDrop 26/9/2018

Opponents of fracking sat in silence at Preston Crown Court this morning as his honour Judge Robert Altham sent three men to jail for taking part in a lorry protest lasting nearly 100 hours outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site.

Simon Blevins and Richard Roberts were sentenced for 16 months and Rich Loizou to 15 months for climbing onto lorries delivering to the site near Blackpool. They had denied causing a public nuisance but were found guilty at a jury trial last month. They will serve half the sentence in prison and the rest on licence. It is understood they are considering appeal against the severity of the sentence.

Julian Brock, the fourth man who took part in the protest, was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for 18 months. He had pleaded guilty to public nuisance.

The sentencing hearing, which began yesterday, heard that they climbed on to the cabs of four lorries in a convoy bound for the Preston New Road site. They stayed on the lorries for at total of 99.5 hours. DrillOrDrop report on the sentencing hearing

Outside the court, campaigners, several in tears, said they were devastated by the prison sentences.

Rosalind Blevins, mother of Simon Blevins, said:

“My son and the others were working under a social conscience for the good of the planet. I am proud of them for standing up against climate change.

“There is no doubt about climate change. 98% of scientists agree that climate chaos is happening.

“We have all got to stand up and reduce our use of fossil fuels now.

“I do not believe that a custodial sentence is in the benefit of society.”

Simon Blevins’ supporters released a statement of his reaction to the sentence:

“This won’t break us, we will come out stronger.

“Some may view us as victims, but we refuse to be victimised by this. The real victims will be future generations suffering preventable disasters caused by climate change.

“Our friends and fellow campaigners outside will continue to fight for a ban on fracking and for a just transition to a renewable and democratically owned energy system”.

Michelle Easton, partner of Richard Roberts, said:

“We are absolutely devastated but this is nothing we are not used to.

“As a protest community we have been let down again and again by democracy.

“It is a huge shock and this is a huge sadness. But it is not something we are surprised about. If our loved ones are going to be locked up we will make sure it worthwhile.”

Taryn, the partner of Richard Loizou, read a statement on his behalf:

“My views on fracking have not been changed.

“I was there to support and care for people. I regret that I caused upset to residents living near the Preston New Road site.

“My work with children and young people gave me no choice but to disturb Cuadrilla’s actions.”

Miranda Cox, a campaigner against Cuadrilla’s operations in Lancashire and a member of Kirkham Town council said after the sentencing:

“This is an unprecedented case: that they were found guilty of public nuisance and that the sentences they have received are draconian and disproportionate.

“This is a very dark day for British justice and for democracy.

“They came to Preston New Road to support us against an industry that could devastate our countryside.”

Asked how anti-fracking campaigners would respond to the sentences, she said:

“I think it will galvanise us. We have been through every process available to us. It will make us more resolute.”

Barbara Richardson, who lives near the Preston New Road site, praised the men’s protest:

“As a community facing fracking on our doorstep, it is a very sad day when peaceful protesters can be sent to prison for trying to protect people and our planet from serious harm by this damaging fossil fuel industry. In our opinion these men are heroes who stood up for what they believe in and now face the serious consequences with bravery and dignity.”

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Rich Loizou, Richard Roberts and Simon Roscoe Blevin (front left to right) with supporters outside Preston Law Courts before the sentencing hearing. Photo: DrillOrDrop, 25 September 2018

There have been almost daily protests in Preston New Road since Cuadrilla began work in January 2017.

Since then, there have been about 350 arrests for protest activity. But until now, people who were found guilty had received conditional discharges, fines or community service.

The lorry protest, from 25-28 July 2017, led to travel disruption around the Preston New Road site. The court heard how at times there were tail-backs of traffic and disturbance to bus services.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said in a statement:

“We have always respected the right to peaceful and lawful protest. However we will continue to condemn unlawful, irresponsible and reckless behaviour that at best inconveniences and costs law abiding local business and commuters and at worst puts them at risk of harm. It is, in our view, a shame that it has come to this but the Crown Court has today taken the correct decision in imposing custodial sentences.”

A spokesperson for the pro-fracking group, Lancashire for Shale, said:

“The hold-ups on the busy A583 caused by anti-fracking activists last summer will no doubt have had a negative impact on the local tourism sector and the businesses situated along and near Preston New Road – especially those whose customers would have been put off from visiting them, leading to a drop in takings.

“It’s one thing to have strong views about fracking and to want to express them, but it’s another thing altogether when that crosses the line into unlawful behaviour that affects ordinary people. The offences committed by these activists are far from victimless crimes and it’s good to see this recognised by the courts.”

But a campaigner, who attended the trial, said:

“The government has been saying we need to tackle climate change but when three people try to do that they are sent to prison because there ws a traffic jam.”

People travelled from across Britain to attend the hearing and hundreds of others sent messages of support.

Tina Lynam, a parent of a child taught by Rich Loizou, travelled from Devon. She said:

“Richard has taught my son for the last two years and is an inspirational mentor and beautiful soul. We are shocked and deeply upset by what is happening here, and felt compelled to come and offer our support today.”

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Anti-fracking slogan on a bridge on the M61 motorway. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

Greenpeace UK executive director, John Sauven, said the protestors “deserve our gratitude, not a prison term”.

“It’s a strange society that massively rewards those responsible for causing more climate change while putting those trying to stop it in jail.”

Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth, said:

“This historic sentencing is disproportionate and harsh. Our thoughts are with these protesters who acted out of conscience to protect the planet.”

Wenonah Hauter, executive director and founder of Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe, said in a statement:

“This decision undermines basic democratic rights to protest and defend communities in the UK.

“Fracking companies are facing sustained protests for a reason. The public knows the dangers fracking poses to our clean air and water, and that’s why activists in England are taking bold action to protect their communities against these threats.

“Companies like Ineos and Cuadrilla would like to stifle this movement, and unfortunately this Court decision produces a dangerous precedent to threaten those advocating for a healthy climate and a livable world. However, if these companies think a court decision will stop the movement to protect our water, climate and communities from fracking, they are in for a surprise.”

The Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, who has campaigned against the onshore oil and gas industry in south east England, said:

“The frack free four are heroes. These people put their lives on hold to defend our environment and climate from the destruction imposed on it by a government blindly committed to fracking at any costs. The latest cost being the liberty of three peaceful protesters whose only crime is resorting to peaceful direct action to resist an industry after every democratic route of opposition was ignored and overturned by the government. The people of Lancashire and their democratically elected representatives repeatedly said no to fracking.

“It has been almost a hundred years since Britain jailed its last environmental campaigners. Since then, the theory goes, we have developed into a mature liberal democracy that can accommodate dissent. Today’s decision blows that myth wide-open; authoritarianism has become a favourite tool of a minority government that lacks the public’s support to force through its environmentally destructive agenda by any other means. Any government that conspires with the dirty fossil fuel industry against its own people is rotten to the core.

“Dissent is not a crime in any country with a political system fit to be called a democracy. Consequently, the sentences handed to the frack-free four are chilling.”

Campaigners have set up a petition to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights calling for a thematic inquiry into the declining space for civil society to effectively oppose the fracking industry in the UK. Link to petition

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 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

92 replies »

  1. Hahahaha Hahahaha this is great news. First of many hopefully.

    Pity for the young lads who are only puppets. Hopefully the puppet master like Jono and the two running this site will be brought to justice but I guess they keep themselves well away from the front line.

    The truth hurts

  2. I wonder how all of the supporters got to the court? Trains? Cars? all powered by fossil fuels? That will be a yes then. Yes we need to develop renewables but how are we going to heat our homes, and power industry in the winter when its dark and windless? The best we have at present is gas.

    Looking at the increase in coal usage by countries like Germany would be sensible. They have an appalling GHG footprint due to opposition to nuclear, and safe well regulated gas fracking.

    • He explained: “There’s a lot of noise on site and I have a site manager who tells me his job is more important than the BBC’s.

      ““There’s nothing to hide, I think you can see everything,” he said, while pointing towards the grounds. ”

      Sounds like Health & Safety is more important than the reporter’s desire to gain access to the site. Doesn’t appear sinister to me.

      • Totally agree R8LMX More sinister is these protestors breaking the law up to 100 days The delays to people /traffic going about their business on Preston rd in those 100 days was shocking

        • Chemicals in your water will be much worse . . . . 99 hours (not 100 days) Lets not forget that a democratic vote decided NOT to allow fracking on the site, this is not just about fracking, it is about the loss of democracy, please think long and hard about that.

      • I take note of the points you make R8 LMX.

        We can be certain it’s NOT because of the noise ….. Cheap noise cancelling microphones, the likes of which are even built in to wireless headphones and mobile phones enable you to use a petrol chainsaw whilst talking .

        I can accept , that on site it may be very busy at this time and that may well of been the reason for refusal , BUT………..

        It does though also beg the question, are they trying to hide problems, poor on-site health and safety , or neglect of regulations ?????

        I will reserve my judgement on that one .

  3. So BBC Northwest tonight are not impartial yet again about fracking. Interviews with protesters only.

  4. Jack-that is old “news”.

    Do you know anything about Countryfile???

    Are their interviewers/audience that interested to see within the site??

    Absolutely not. The purpose of the interview was to discuss the exploration, what was about to happen and the possible outcomes. This was all achieved. I watched it.

    Countryfile has no interest in whether a security guards van had mud on it’s wheels. Perhaps you could claim cover up if the programme and interviewer were knowledgeable about fracking, or even drilling for oil/gas, but they obviously are not. The interview took place and the questions raised were answered.

    Perhaps there may have been consideration for Cuadrilla of not showing certain individuals that equipment was likely to be delivered very shortly? That would not be “hiding” anything, just helping the police.

    If you bother to look around you will find all sorts of techniques, including trespass and drones, for some to be able to find out when to time their activities, for maximum disruption. Cuadrilla are not stupid enough to help that at this stage with TV film of exactly what stage they are at. Not very exciting, something to hide probably more so. I know which I will believe.

  5. Fair Comment MARTIN ,

    I do not know if the Countryfile audience are interested in Fracking .

    BUT neither do YOU.

    The closed shop approach by Mr Francis Egan is strange , considering there is generally a robust need for Fracking to be shown to as many of the undecided 50% of UK public as possible .

    BUT , like I have said before , I do accept there may be a less sinister motive for his refusal .

  6. Why is nobody saying the obvious? [edited by moderator] The judicial system has lost all legitimacy with this decision. Britain now has its own Pussy Riot or Liu Xiabao or Aung San Suu Kyi. People need to realise we’re living in a police state and not keep up the lie that we’re still in a democracy with basic liberties.

    The judge [edited by moderator] preventing protesters from presenting the context of fracking and environmental activism to the jury. This meant the jury were fed incomplete, fake news. It’s as if someone was pleading self-defence and the judge barred all evidence that the person was being attacked. The conviction is unsound because the jury did not have the full facts. This shows that the judiciary is corrupt and politicised.

    This is the latest example of the judiciary making up laws on the spot. Nobody passed a law designating protest as “public nuisance”. There was not a properly constituted law change. The judiciary changed the law on the spot. They repurposed a vaguely worded nineteenth century law designed to be used against *polluters* (I kid you not) as a way to effectively pass a new law without due process. They’ve done it before (e.g. conspiracy to blackmail; solicitation of murder) and every time it violates the rule of law. People accused under these reinterpreted laws can’t know they were breaking this law at the time of the offence. The law change does not receive parliamentary or media scrutiny. It’s effectively rule by decree, by judges, prosecutors and police, bypassing democracy.

    This is a precedent for cases involving any kind of protest, basically criminalising all disruptive protests and making it so nobody can defend any of their rights without going to jail. If they once establish that blocking traffic or business is “public nuisance” with a 16-month sentence – no protest is safe. It could be anyone, picketers, antifa, BDS, feminists, you name it. The right-wing fools supporting this, will not be so supportive when it’s fathers’ rights or countryside alliance people who get hit with this next. It’s absurdly disproportionate and patently political. On the same day, people were given non-custodial sentences for things like wounding someone with a knife, drink driving, and property crimes involving large sums of money. It’s blatantly obvious that the sentence was not given because of harm done by a crime, it was given for political reasons – as part of a police-state campaign to stamp out dissent.

    Protest is a human right, getting to work on time is not. Police cause traffic jams all the time. They don’t go to jail. Police have got away with kettling innocent bystanders so they miss work or miss picking children up from childcare. They didn’t go to jail for that. Police who sexually assaulted protesters at the fracking protests have not gone to jail. Yet protesters go to jail, supposedly for causing a traffic jam. We all know the real reason was to criminalise dissent. Many of the locals who were inconvenienced, support the protests and oppose fracking. Traffic jams happen all the time and people do not get such long sentences. Police cause traffic jams all the time and nobody calls it a human rights violation. Yet suddenly when the people doing it have politics the state doesn’t like, causing a bit of minor disruption is a massive crime.

    If Britain was a democratic country then a sentence like this would never happen. If it did, the country would be shut down in response – like when democracy was attacked in Hong Kong. The judge who gave this fascist sentence would be no-platformed at the very least, he would never dare set foot at a public event again. But Britain is full of anti-democratic bigots who cheer on this kind of fascist legal despotism. Our social movements have been weakened by decades of repression. People will look back on this day as they look back now on the racist and homophobic laws of the 30s. If fracking causes major disasters or climate change has the predicted impact, people will remember that today’s generation cared more about getting to work on time. [Edited by moderator] The people who posted supporting the decision will be remembered in the same light as the lynch-mobs of the past. Sad little people who gave up their freedoms for the joy of persecuting others.

    • Well said ‘no police state’; sadly those commenting on here have missed the whole point of this article; just bent on petty bickering like children in the playground.

      “Richard has taught my son for the last two years and is an inspirational mentor and beautiful soul. We are shocked and deeply upset by what is happening here, and felt compelled to come and offer our support today.” – this comment inspires me the most. The support from the families of what I would describe as ‘victims’ is commendable and we know that the ‘frack-free four’ will be supported in all that they do now and in the future.

      In time, this atrocious act by the state representative will be held up and accounted for; that’s the nature of our sad society, but happen it will.

      Well done brave souls; your actions and oppression will only serve to inspire ever more resistance. I salute you!

  7. BUT, that’s not what I posted Jack!

    They have an interest in fracking, hence the interview. BUT, it is NOT a programme, or audience, that could distinguish what was right, wrong or otherwise around the platform. That was NOT the purpose of the interview.

    If someone wanted to do a programme on discussing the merits/benefits of cattle genetics for the general public, they do not need to show cattle breeding. (Some, with their own issues, may want that but better not go there.) If they didn’t, it would not stop them supplying the audience with the information required, and would not display any sort of censorship. Within a short time slot available, it would actually provide more information, as was clearly the case on this programme.

    I wonder who would have whinged if the interview had been on the site, and the answers to the questions were adversely impacted by background activity?

    Sorry Jack, the antis were not the audience. There are too few of you to justify the cost! And, by the way, filming in the surrounding farm land on a nice sunny day showed how the site, in the background, looked quite at home and not intrusive in any way. Farmers will be thinking, “yep, one of those in lower meadow, would fit nicely”. Much better than that huge ugly steel “rig” further in the background.

    But, as it is a lovely sunny day, I now have to get my paint brush out, protecting my woodwork from the coming winter. Ahh, paint-wonder how that is made? And, is it better than PVC? So many things to worry about.

    Tried a bit of light relief there Jack. Probably needed at the moment.

    • MARTIN,

      Please let me refresh your memory , you said, quote, ” Are their interviewers/audience that interested to see within the site??
      Absolutely not. ”

      It looks clear cut to me , as to what you were saying there MARTIN .

      In your second response ( above ) , YOU ASSUME , without knowing, if the BBC Countryfile audience have a knowledge as to what is right and what is wrong on a working Cuadrilla site .

      BUT my Grandmother could spot simple breaches of Health and Safety violations .
      Common sense is all thats needed for that one .

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  8. The PLAIN AND SIMPLE FACTS of the matter are,

    The pre-arranged , on site interview for the BBC Countryfile team at the Cuadrilla PNR site, was suddenly denied THREE days before the interview was even mean’t to take place, citing some Cock and Bull reason about noise .

    Mr Francis Egan statement that Cuadrillas site manager had said that his job is more important than that of the BBC’s . Effectively saying, that informing a sceptical UK public, as to what goes on at a Fracking site, is not important .

    This type of attitude, will win Cuadrilla no Browny Points .

    However pro-frackers want to try and dress it up . Ordinary folk will still question, why BBC Countryfile were refused entry .

    This clearly shows the deep rooted dislike and lack of trust in the industry as a whole .

    For the benefit of the 50% undecided UK population , in hindsight, Mr Francis Egan ,may now be regretting that decision.

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