Anti-fracking campaigners rally in support of men jailed for lorry protest

180927 PNR rally for sentenced protesters Peter Yankowski

Rally outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site on 27 September 2018 in support of three men sent to prison for a 99-hour lorry protest against fracking. Photo: Peter Yankowski

Opponents of shale gas have been demonstrating their support for the first men sent to prison in the UK for protesting against fracking.

Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, a soil scientist from Sheffield, and Richard Roberts, 36, a piano restorer from London, were jailed for 16 months each, while Rich Loizou, 31, a teacher from Devon, was sentenced for 15 months. A fourth man, Julian Brock, 47, from Torquay, was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for 18 months.

The sentences were imposed by Judge Robert Altham at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday (26/9/2018). The men had been convicted of causing a public nuisance after they stayed on top of lorries delivering to Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road for a total of 99 hours.

At the time of writing a video by the three men sent to prison, recorded before their sentencing, had 385,000 views from one Facebook page.

A petition calling on Preston Crown Court to free the three men had more than 7,500 signatures. A second petition calls on the UK government to protect the right to protest and not to “unfairly punish people who oppose fracking”. At the time of writing, this had received more than 12,500 signatures.

At Preston New Road, yesterday around 60 people gathered to express their opposition to the sentence.

In Sheffield, where Mr Blevins worked, a crowd gathered outside the city hall for a candle-lit vigil.

180927 Sheffield rallytinaEnglish3

Candle-lit vigil outside Sheffield City Hall, 26 September 2018. Photo: Tina English

Last night, at Ecclesfield, Sheffield, the independent radiation expert, Dr Ian Fairley, spoke at a meeting about toxicity and fracking waste. He told DrillOrDrop:

“I can tell you that the anger in the 60+ audience against these jail sentences was palpable”.

There were also demonstrations at Haxby near York and at Glastonbury.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who visited protesters at Preston New Road, described the sentences as “truly shocking”. He tweeted:

“Such severe jail sentences for peaceful protest fails to appreciate the strength of feeling of protesters and the local community against fracking.”

180927 John McDonnell on sentencing

The meeting of Calder Valley Constituency Labour Party passed an emergency resolution supporting a campaign to release the three men and condemning the use of criminal sanctions to stop peaceful and political protest.

Gina Dowding, a Green Party member of Lancashire County Councillor, is joining women from across the country at a rally outside the Conservative Party conference on Monday (1/10/2018). She said:

“All the women coming to Birmingham are horrified that four men who were in Preston Court for protesting at Preston New Road last year were sentenced to over a year in prison. This heavy sentence for peaceful protest makes us more, not less, determined to make the Government see sense about the need for action on climate change.”

Updated 29/9/2018 with information about Calder Valley CLP

12 replies »

  1. “Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?’ William Rees Mogg – The Times, used this very appropriate phrase, over 50 years ago about Mick Jagger.

    • I would like to pose a question.
      As the Human Rights Act does not define HOW you protest and gives you the RIGHT to protest, and that this Act supersedes all legislation, how is the governance allowing their policy holders to direct their representatives in law to apply a lesser law designed for something else completely to incarcerate three out of four individuals who exercised their rights under said Act?

  2. Disgusting antisocial behaviour from the Judge! I wonder if he has any understanding of English history, the Suffragette Movement or the lessons from two world wars!
    Dictatorship never prevails and those that attempt it are harshly punished in due course!

  3. So when was anyone last sent to prison for being a “nuisance”?!!!! The charge is so archaic, it has no sentencing guidelines. It smacks of desperation by Cuadrilla and police. Cuadrilla at the time said their operations were not being significantly affected by protest, they then said they were in the injunction and then this case put a figure on it for one event. If you ignore local opposition and huge amounts of evidence on huge harms of fracking, it is not rocket science to expect some of the protest will try and disrupt your operations. But these were sent to prison for NON VIOLENT direct action. For outrageously long periods of time. This is galvanising opposition. Even people not involved are now outraged. Draconian sentences. These men have families, responsibilities, for one it is his first offence of any kind. I would have thought there is a good case that the partial blocking of a road was not what envisaged when “public nuisance” went on the statute book: people were always free to walk past, in human history, walking has rather a lot to commend it: it doesn’t require any fossil fuels or technological sophistication whatsoever beyond a functioning pair of legs. I rather regard all these motor vehicles as a nuisance whenever I want to walk to cross over a busy road. Polluted air, soil, and water is rather more of a nuisance than a delayed bus. Noisy drilling and fracking and runaway climate change is nuisance. Rising sea levels are a nuisance if you live in low lying areas. Increases in extreme weather is a nuisance. Increases prevalence of low birth weight is a nuisance, as it links to a host of health problems and linked to proximity to fracked wells in Pennsylvania.

    • Absolutely, but of course fracking and its repercussions are way more than a “nuisance”. The sentence reflects that of a fledging corporatist police state. The fact they got longer jail time than some of those convicted of child or animal abuse says it all.

  4. Imprisonment is not likely to deter inmates from re- offending in this country because we have so little in the way of rehab facilities, and the prisons – now privatised – are so badly run.

  5. You are correct Caroline, but the other purpose is to separate those individuals who break the law at the expense and inconvenience of law abiding citizens, from those law abiding citizens. Yes, it costs those law abiding citizens money to achieve that separation but society has decided that is the lesser of the two evils. The alternative of mob rule is nothing to do with democracy, it is the opposite.

    By the way, when have prisons in this country EVER been well run?? Same question regarding railways, water companies etc. The probable answer is that whilst there have been big improvements all need more investment on top of what they have had, to account for huge increases in demands. How do we get even more investment? Encourage industry. Let them expand, create jobs and both pay taxes to fund such services. Simples. (I know that will produce the usual alternative of letting the rich pay more, but there is a threshold at which they will not. They will move their “richness” or they will sack staff to reduce costs. Ever been thus, and the first option is so much easier now.)

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