Legal

Shock over family connections of judge who jailed three anti-fracking campaigners

181006Preston Protest Eddie Thornton 3

Anti-fracking protest in support of three men jailed for public nuisance offences. Photo: Eddie Thornton, 6 October 2018

Campaigners have raised concerns about links between the judge who jailed three anti-fracking protesters last month and his family’s business in supplying the oil and gas industry.

His Honour Robert Altham sentenced Simon Blevins and Richard Roberts to 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 by climbing onto the cabs of the lorries. But they were found guilty at a jury trial in August.

A company run by Judge Altham’s sister, Jane Watson, is listed as a shale gas advocate by the pro-fracking North West Energy Task Force.

nwetf advocates

Ms Watson also signed a letter calling on Lancashire County Council to “grant permission for the development of two exploratory wells in Lancashire” and “to give “shale a chance”.

Ms Watson is listed by Companies House as the managing director of Mrs J C Altham and Sons (Lancaster) Limited. It provides supplies and equipment to offshore oil and platforms.

A spokesperson for Frack Free Lancashire described revelations about Ms Watson’s support for the onshore shale gas industry as “quite shocking”.

The group pointed to the Guide to Judicial Conduct which states:

“Where a close member of a judge’s family is politically active, the judge needs to bear in mind the possibility that, in some proceedings, that political activity might raise concerns about the judge’s own impartiality and detachment from the political process.”

The FFL spokesperson said:

“The positive involvement of his sister’s company with shale gas advocacy is made obvious in the NWETF’s (North West Energy Task Force) list of shale gas advocates which show both its name and location.

“It is clear that questions need to be asked here.”

The three men have lodged an appeal against their sentence and the hearing is expected soon.

43 replies »

  1. That explains the excessive and draconian sentences then; points to yet more corruption at the highest levels. Not a great look for the authorities, ruling elite, so-called “British justice” and links to the pro-fracking industry.

  2. This looks excellent grounds for an appeal and given the sensitivity of the case, it’s extraordinary that the judge did not recuse himself. Or perhaps he was instructed to ‘make an example’ of the three men by those that pull the string behind the scenes?

  3. Hmmmm

    Interesting company

    A small chandlery company. Supplies the offshore oil industry supply vessels, fishermen, yatchsmen, anyone who drops in to buy something, offshore wind and so forth.

    How many tubs of swarfega were supplied to those pesky offshore supply vessels? Can the judge demonstrate he has clean hands?

    What is the link with offshore wind though? Did the judge go easy on the accused because of likely business with existing and future wind farms? Are they expanding into the North Sea? Will they open a shop in Grimbsby?

    Were they supplying Morecambe bay gas field directly, or just the supply vessel visiting it ( with cleaning materials and maybe a chefs hat ). Are they in cahoots with the offshore oil and gas industry to strangle fracking at birth ( who wants cheap gas eh … not offshore operators ). Give a prison sentence to those pesky protestors and let the backlash cause trouble…even stop the fracking. Result.

    The company is worth £181,000. Two days worth of waiting to frack cash , a spooky co incidence or what?

    Maybe not.

    Ruth, it would be good to say what a shop in Heysham is supplying to the offshore oil and gas industry to put the ‘Shock’ in context. Many companies support offshore activities, be they oil or renewables. How shall we share out that guilt by association?

    • Nice try Hewes, but you are ignoring the fact that this is about more than a bit or rope here. Sister seems to have taken enough to do the proverbial by signing that letter. The key word here is “advocate” I think.

    • Funny how you read this as insulting GBK. You have been given the facts of the relationships involved and vested interests with the industry. How does that equate to “desperate tines”?

    • Who said anything about his vested interests? (Although it would be interesting to know if he has any shares in the family firm of course – Perhaps Ruth should ask?).

      The initial concern is whether his sister’s advocacy for fracking was made clear to all parties here in accordance with the guidelines given to our judiciary. Maybe you have different rules over there Peeny?

  4. The article quotes shock and huff and puff but does not mention that anything is being done to follow up the accusations?

    Ruth / Paul – are FFL / “campaigners” actually doing anything – are they complaining to the Judiciary / the Judge / The Government about the alleged conflict of interest or is it just a “hot air” article?

    Or has Carter Ruck sent them / you a letter?

  5. Ruth it is like you are friend with protestors.So what if sister is connected to oil business.At least she works and pay her taxes .More can be said for most protestors

    • [Edited by moderator] Another baseless comment on tired old stereotypes without any facts to back them up. We all pay taxes in some form, just living in the current system anyway – the poor disproportionately more than the rich. Meanwhile frackers and other short-sighted fossil fools get all the tax breaks, subsidy and the backing of the state at the taxpayers expense.

    • Speaking of “hot air”……the term is rather more appropriate than the intended smoggy martinesque irrelevant version isnt it?

  6. Never mind. These Judges are in for a huge hike in their salaries so will become immune to the “lobbying” of siblings.

    Back in the real world if one of my siblings tried to influence me, I would be more likely to react in the opposite direction. Think it is part of the sibling rivalry thing.

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