1,000+ academics call for review of fracking protest prison sentences

academics letter

Extract of letter signed by more than 1,000 academics

More than 1,000 academics have now signed an open letter supporting a review of last week’s prison sentence given to three men who took part in anti-fracking protests.

The news comes as lawyers for Richard Roberts, Simon Roscoe Blevins and Rich Loizou, jailed for 15 and 16 months last week, have said they are to appeal against their sentences. (More details)

The letter, originally from academics at Sussex University, has now been signed by lecturers, researchers and professors at more than 70 institutions across the UK and abroad.

It also called for an inquiry into the declining space for civil society protests.

It said:

“We the undersigned are writing to express our growing concern about the shrinking space for communities and environmental defenders to engage in civil opposition to fracking developments in the UK.

The academics said:

“We need more, not less, space for action to confront unsustainable industrial practices that harm our communities and perpetuate our reliance on fossil fuels.”

We join calls for a judicial review of this absurdly harsh sentence, and an inquiry into the declining space for civil society protest that it represents.”

The Sussex academics who started the letter, Andrea Brock, Judith Verweijen and Amber Huff, said:

“This avalanche of support sends a strong signal to the government, to those who have been unjustly imprisoned, and those who are continuing the struggle,”

They said:

“This ruling is part of converging trends related to both the government’s support of the fracking industry and the criminalisation of protest in the UK.

“These trends are reflected in, for example, recent legislative changes to the infrastructure act; attempts to classify fracking as “permitted development”; and the increased use of injunctions to pre-empt protests against fracking.

“We are very worried about these trends, and call upon other academics and everyone else who shares these concerns to speak out.”

One of the first signatories of the letter, Professor Lyla Mehta, Institute for Development Studies at University of Sussex, said:

“Fracking is unpopular and controversial around Europe and north America. Using draconian measures and imprisonment to curb peaceful protest is an infringement of basic rights and a blot on UK democracy.”

Professor Ian Scoones, also at the Institute of Development Studies, said:

“This harsh sentencing of environmental protestors suggests that civic space is closing. This is really worrying as non-violent protest is essential for democracy and sustainability.”

Professor Rosaleen Duffy, of the University of Sheffield, said:

“These anti fracking campaigners have given their time and energy to oppose fracking; they have been handed very harsh sentences which sends a negative signal to the public – that the ability to engage in peaceful environmental protest is being curtailed.

“I believe we should support the campaigners and their mission to defend the environment for the benefit of all humanity. Quite simply they should not have been jailed for their actions.”

European campaign

181003 MEP support

MEPs campaigning in support of three men jailed for anti-fracking protests. Photo: Office of Keith Taylor MEP

On 3 October 2018, MEPs from across Europe stood together in the European Parliament to send their solidarity to the three campaigners.

Standing together in Strasbourg, cross-party MEPs from across Europe backed calls to #FreeTheThree.

Holding posters declaring “protecting the planet is not a crime,” MEPs put aside party political allegiances to jointly condemn the “declining space for civil society to effectively oppose the fracking industry in the UK”.

One of the MEPs, Keith Taylor, said:

“I am pleased so many of my colleagues join me in sending a united message of support to the brave heroes whose fight to protect our planet has robbed them of their liberty.”

“We are supposed to be, the theory goes, a mature liberal democracy that can accommodate dissent.

“The decision to jail peaceful fracking protesters 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.”

10 replies »

  1. It beggars belief that 1,000+ so called academics are sucked into the anti’s propaganda machine to believe that the 3 guilty protestors were jailed for their views.

    Of course they are entitled to their views – they weren’t jailed becuase of them.

    Of course they are entitled to vocalise those views via peaceful protest – they didn’t engage in peaceful protest.

    They chose to air their views whilst at the same time being a public nuisance and it is as a result of the latter that they were found guilty by a jury. The fact they denied being a public nuisance no doubt contributed to the sentencing decision, not least when one of 4 accused pleaded guilty (underlining the fact the charge levelled at all 4 of them had substance).

    The one slightly less brainwashed anarchist received a less punitive outcome. The other 3 were steadfast (or didn’t have the backbone to recognise) that their actions were far from peaceful.

    Out of interest, how many people were approached to put their name to this open letter and how many declined?

    • You’re hilarious R8MLX, where’s your evidence they are “anarchists”. They took the action they did because they had deeply held convictions and thought about the longterm harm to our commons. Much more widespread respect and admiration for them, rather than a minority of feckless, brainwashed disaster capitalists, who can only think of a fast buck at the expense of the majority’s longterm health and well-being.

      • The same evidence that saw them convicted by a jury for being a public nuisance. They stood defiant despite their guilt…well 3 of the 4 did. The other one had more integrity.

        • And they were right to remain defiant against draconian laws which are detrimental to us all. That’s integrity, whether anarchist or not, still doesn’t necessarily make them anarchists.

  2. The letter is nonsense and irrelevant. The Appeal is not, the sentences do seem harsh (long) and everyone has the right to appeal within the judicial process. The one who repeated the offence after being charged with the original offence which he was convicted of may not do so well at appeal.

  3. “they didn’t engage in peaceful protest”, writes your correspondent. As far as I am aware, no violence was offered by these brave protesters, unless it be violence to inconvenience the public in order to prevent what the demonstrators considered a greater harm. If this be so, then the words of Martin Luther King “From a Birmingham Jail” seem apposite – ” I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.” It’s not quite as simple as your correspondent would have us believe. Legal is one thing, ethical is another. Guilt according to the law is perhaps not in question but the sentence is considered by most to be disproportionate.

  4. There is no doubt in my mind and the minds of many worldwide that the current Tory Government is indeed “Rotten to the Core”.
    The sooner they are gone the better

  5. [Edited by moderator] this govt’s policy for fracking – against the majority of residents’ wishes who have expressed a view on that – has done more to radicalise people than anarchy could ever do. One Sussex resident who had previously been on the Conservative party committee for Balcombe has now joined Momentum. At this rate, May & Co will manage to turn the whole of the UK red with just one of their loony policies. And one judge’s verdict has made the Frack Free 4 heroes – not criminals.

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