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. Keep it going Jack!

    But, maybe not the best time to be posting such obviously silly conspiracy theories just at the time the media may be scrutinising what has been going on regarding PNR and how some try to manipulate perfectly normal situations for their own ends.

    I suspect same media would recognise how interviews and filming with commercial companies are organised to report the story properly and without undue interference to the company being approached. Both were achieved in this case. I have been involved myself Jack in such situations. Did you see the programme? If so, did it not meet those objectives?

    I think you are confusing with investigative journalism. Different programmes.

    • NO conspiracy theories here MARTIN,

      Just common sense .. When people want to operate behind closed doors, without any transparency.

      You have to ask the reason , WHY ???

  2. Some things are simple Jack. Like a company holding an interview with a TV company and not evading any questions and answering all asked of it. Simple that they decide what is the best venue to do that to avoid inconvenience to themselves.

    This was NOT an investigation, so why would there be anything to “hide”??? It was a pre-arranged interview so if it had been around the wellhead everything could have been “pre-arranged” for the cameras, maybe with a poster within shot saying “Cuadrilla are great” and “Buy your cars from X” , and a can of Coke, to earn a bit of income.

    I take you avoiding the direct question that you did not view it. It seems the process is still the focus, but the process is already determined for PNR, so it does seem a bit surplus.

    • MARTIN ,.

      For the benefit of anyone wanting to watch the BBC Countryfile interview and listen to the Cock and Bull reason about the interview having to be conducted away from the Cuadrilla PNR site because of noise .

      Here it is again

      • Jack – you have clearly not worked on an active drilling site. Personnel require specific training to be around the wellhead. Why would Cuadrilla shut down their operations (I’m sure Tom Heap has zero training in Health and Safety and lifting operations at a well site). Shutting dow costs money; why waste money on what was always going to be a biased inteview when the same could be accomplished off site? If it was my company I would have done the same.

        • PAUL TRESTO,

          It’s nonsense to even suggest , Cuadrilla would have to shut down their operations to do a TV interview . The site in questionn, is ample big enough to conduct such an interview from a safe point within the grounds .

          LETS NOT FORGET, Cuadrilla themselves were initially very happy to have an interview from within the grounds, so clearly no on-site safety problem there .

          I’m certain that your everyday Joe who enters the site delivering equipment, maintaining Portaloos or delivering sandwiches has not had to go through a military style , intensive training program , prior to stepping on site .

          If it were so highly dangerous for ordinary personal to even step on site, then maybe the general public, should indeed be Very Worried about what is happening on their doorsteps.

          To be honest Paul, previous drone footage has shown the Cuadrilla site to be something that resembles a makeshift gypsy site. Taking note of this , it does make you wonder if there are things they don’t want you to see

          • Jack – you have caught me out. Of course Health & Safety is not an issue and the BBC is not biased. There were several things going on at that particular time that were hidden from drones but Tom Heap would have spotted if he had got on site. A truckload of uranium dioxide from Springfields had just been pumped down the well and a shipment of uranium hexafluoride was delivered ready to go down the second well. All under cover of tarps. In addition there were a pair of long eared owls nesting in the crane with their third brood ready to fledge. The security guards were being issued with tasers and uzis (a couple with sniper rifles) ready for fracking to begin. Clearly none of this was appropriate for coverage on the BBC.

            • THANKS Paul Tresto, It’s nice to bring some light humour in to a heavy debate sometimes .

              As I sign of for the evening , I would like to say ,

              My thoughts and I hope the thoughts of both for and against Fracking , will tonight , once again be with the three gentlemen who are facing , what most would consider to be long terms in jail for their strong beliefs…..

              Remember this may set a precedent and although there may be some who think the long terms are justified…. It may be YOU , who next is on the receiving end of a draconian prosecution when you next protest against something .

              Enjoy the rest of your evening Paul and Martin , I’ve had enough for one day .

              Jack

            • And to you Jack – but don’t forget there are some, including on this BB, that believe the whole shale gas fracking thing is a cover for nuclear waste disposal down the wells…..

              Hasta manana…

  3. Jack, keep on with trying to excite a few who might get excited enough to do something that no facts support and they may regret, and you will provide more indications of the way the antis work ie. take a perfectly innocent situation and make it into some weird grievance. Maybe that is your motivation?

    Ever crossed your mind that Cuadrilla did not want their staff shown on camera? And whether they might have good reasons for it?

    Good interview, wasn’t it? Anything avoided/hidden? Err, no.

  4. Please reprogram the Bot. It is repeating the same reverse “news” that is found on RT, and we already have sussed that. Bit of tuning required.

    National TV filming outside PNR on a daily basis now? Hmm, so deep now you could cause a seismic event!

    Good, informative section wasn’t it. However, as it was Countryfile I missed the opportunity to see whether there were livestock or crops within the boundary. Maybe they are fish farming within the bunds and didn’t want to be exposed until they are ready to flood the local chippies?

    I spoke with some of the 50% who saw it, Jack (remember my background is within agriculture). They were quite satisfied. Even they knew the site was being monitored more extensively by agencies than anywhere else has been, and they had the expertise that they didn’t. Sorry to spoil your day Jack, but they don’t see yourself within that category. Creating a grievance out of thin air may be a sophisticated business, but doesn’t float their boat.

      • 82% of those who bothered to read that far down the biased coverage and who could be arrised to answer a poll that was embedded in an article in such a fashion as to ellicit led answers, decided they didn’t support fracking.

        How many read the article?

        How many read the poll question but didn’t bother to answer the poll because they could see through the attempt at propaganda creation?

        Only 2k people answered the poll…what if the page and poll had been seen by 10k people, that would mean 1,640 people (82% of the 2k) of the 10k visiting the page were sufficiently bothered to express opposition. That’s 16.4%….

        Do you have the page views so we can assess how many were presented with the poll in order to work out the real opposition %?

        Sometimes you need all of the pieces of the jigsaw to get the full picture…but even then, that assumes your eyes are fully functional and you can understand what you are seeing.

  5. We have a properly conducted poll, Jack. We know what that shows. We also know how the antis flood polls, councils etc. with their views. Sorry Jack, that one is rumbled.

    Unless any poll is conducted under correct conditions it is worthless. Have you not seen polls being done in the high street where the shopper gives the first answer they are lead to as they are desperate to remove themselves from the presence of the pollster and get into the coffee shop? Probably not.

    Pollsters know exactly how to obtain a particular answer, if they so wish. That is how we get Scottish Referendums too close to call, and the next morning find something extremely different. What happens when polls show things are too close to call? Oh, better repeat them again and again, kerching. Interested parties also know exactly how to manipulate a poll when it is not controlled against manipulation.

    Anyway, you will be pleased to know I completed my painting yesterday, struggling to keep the white gloss paint away from the black plastic guttering and then cleaning everything with dollops of white spirit. (Spot the link.) In answer to your previous question I suspect my grand children will have the same sort of task in the future. (See Sir Jim just completing another acquisition in USA. How’s Mr. Musk doing over there? Oops.)

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