MP asks government to investigate judge who jailed anti-fracking protesters

181008 Rebecca Long Bailey to Preston New Road

Gordon Marsden (right) outside the Preston New Road shale gas site with shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey.

The justice secretary has been urged to investigate whether the judge who jailed three anti-fracking protesters last month followed an official code of conduct.

Blackpool South MP, Gordon Marsden, tabled three parliamentary question earlier this week on the judge who sentenced Simon Roscoe Blevins, Richard Roberts and Rich Loizou.

Judge Robert Altham jailed Mr Blevins and Mr Roberts for 16 months and Mr Loizou for 15 months for their part in a protest in July 2017 near Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road near Blackpool.

This week it was revealed that Jane Watson, the sister of Judge Altham, had actively supported the shale gas industry in Lancashire and at the Preston New Road site.

Ms Watson is the managing director of a company that supplies the offshore oil and gas sector. She was named as a shale gas advocate by the North West Energy Task Force and she signed a letter to Lancashire County Council supporting Cuadrilla’s fracking proposals. DrillOrDrop report

The judicial code 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.”

Mr Marsden asked the Secretary of State for Justice:

“if he will undertake an investigation into compliance with the judicial code of conduct in relation to the trial at Preston Crown Court of Simon Blevins, Richard Roberts and Richard Loizou.”

He also asked whether Judge Altham had sought advice from the Ministry of Justice about the requirements of the code of conduct on his family connections.

In a third question, Mr Marsden asked the Secretary of State:

“If he will publish the guidance issued by his Department on the duty of care required of justices under the judicial code of conduct when presiding over a case where the circumstances involve industries in which the judge’s family members have a financial interest.”

Mr Marsden told yesterday’s Mirror:

“I think it is in the public interest that we should know as soon as possible whether the judicial code of conduct was adhered to by the judge in question at this trial.

“The controversy regarding the severity of sentencing makes this particularly important in such a highly sensitive and charged situation as fracking.”

pnr 170727 Nina Taylor3

“Lorry surfing” protest outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site near Blackpool. Photo: Taylor Made Films, 27 July 2017

The three campaigners were the first people to be sent to prison in the UK for taking part in protests against the shale gas industry.

The length of the sentences has been criticised as excessive by human rights campaigners, academics, environmentalists and politicians. More than 1,000 UK academics signed an open letter calling for a review of the jail term..

Last Saturday an estimated 500 people marched through the centre of Preston to the city’s jail where the three men are being held.

An appeal hearing against the sentences is scheduled for Wednesday 17 October 2018 in London.

36 replies »

  1. Good, excellent news.

    “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.”

    so now maybe we shall see how the judiciary is capable of examining its own legal obligations of revealing vested interests. The earth is moving beneath their feet it seems, and the anti antis trying to minimalise the issue, are on the wrong side of the fracture.

  2. It also seems his parents, John Carr Altham and Linda Altham are both directors of said company, keeping it in the family…..massive conflict of interest. Makes an even bigger mockery of an already ridiculous justice system.

  3. The same judge is keen to hand out suspended sentences to paedophiles saying that they can be rehabilitated , it makes you wonder how these peoples minds work .

    • Perhaps the defiance of the 3 who pleaded not guilty whilst standing alongside the fourth who had more integrity, only served to highlight the former’s radicalisation.

          • You seem to be pretending that they knew they would be found guilty.
            And that there would be no integrity in believing innocence, despite what a jury might say.
            So have you never heard, of people being found innocent, after wrongful conviction ?
            [Edited by moderator]

  4. Why does DoD continually misreport the reason why these 3 individuals were jailed? It was not “for taking part in protests against the shale gas industry.”. It was because they broke the law and were found guilty by a jury of being a public nuisance. A fourth person had the integrity to plead guilty and was spared a custodial sentence.

    • Sorry number plate; you missed the point. These individuals were charged with an offence whilst protesting – their right as a human – ironically with an offence used often to stop polluters! They were not allowed to state their motivation in the trial, which now illuminates the possible compromised judge.

      This is an interesting story and should be followed closely; if the judge has evidence he followed procedure then no problem, if not, it would bring the whole trial into disrepute – not to mention the judiciary…..

      • The point, Sherwulfe, is that they were found guilty of being a public nuisance. They could easily have protested peacefully and without being a nuisance but they chose not to. They were not jailed for protesting, which they of course have the right to do…PEACEFULLY. They were jailed for being a public nuisance and seemingly having no remorse for their actions in the face of a jury finding them guilty, and thus the sentence reflects their guilt and lack of remorse.

    • The 3 jailed of course decided to impose their views upon many 1000’s who do not share that view.

      It seems the unwashed seem to think that “protest” is somehow now defined as stopping any and all people going about their lawful business for as long as they choose.

      Happily and quite rightly this lenient sentence demonstrates that what they believe is reasonable protest is not what they think it is.

      As for conflict of interest, their argument is possibly the most tenuous and laughable I have ever seen put forward in any argument over any issue on Facebook in well over a decade.

      • Er this isn’t Facebook and the argument has been put forward in Parliament.

        Still it’s nice to see you have a sense of irony in choosing the name you hide behind.

    • It’s not breaking, “the law”, is it, to perform an action which would normally be considered as such, if doing so would be to prevent a greater crime ?

  5. I don’t see the issue. Company deals with offshore O&G industry not onshore.
    Wouldn’t it be great if case was reviewed and their sentences increased?
    I thought the sentences were adequate considering their continuous desire to break the law. We need to remember they hindered the general public for a considerable period of time and also put the people at risk by closing a route used by emergency services. I’d remove the term ‘peaceful protest’ and start to refer it to anarchy.

    • One of the companies the judge’s family firm supplies happens to be Centrica who just happen to be financing Cuadrilla at PNR.

        • Well VOR The Times reported “Centrica, the energy company, said that JC Altham & Sons, of Morecambe, was part of its supply chain” and Centrica certainly do finance Cuadrilla.

          What was your point again? Did I miss it “dear” 😂

            • Really Blair? This is from Cuadrilla’s most recent accounts.

              “In 2013, Centrica plc farmed-in to take a 25% share of the Bowland licence and consideration included
              a carry arrangement. During 2017, the Group has benefited from Centrica carry contributions totalling
              $16.9m of which $13.7m related to Cuadrilla’s share of capital related project costs. The contribution
              to capital costs of $13.7m is included in income for the year and has been capitalised as an addition to
              exploration and evaluation assets on the balance sheet.”

              You were saying?

    • ‘Wouldn’t it be great if case was reviewed and their sentences increased’

      Wouldn’t be a surprise if their trial was found to be unsafe and they get released and compensation.

      Wouldn’t be a surprise if Cuadrilla cause damage again through induced seismicity and have to pay out millions?

      • Hi John.
        None of these developments would surprise me in the least!
        It is just the natural progression of true justice!

    • I’d refer to the actions of those facilitating the fracking industry as totally undemocratic.
      Firstly the planning applications and planning conditions were rewritten. Initially by Central Government then by Lancashire County Council.
      More importantly the current government are only in place as a result of renting the cooperation of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.
      No tory majority, no fracking!

    • So you think that would be accepting personal responsibility, then do you ?

      Otherwise, what do you suppose Anarchy is, and where do you get your delusion from ? Please note :
      An = without. And Archos = government.
      Therefore Anarchy = the state of being by which one may control oneself, rather than being governed, as a car which has no choice, is being governed.

  6. Try speeding Sherwulfe and state you were protesting that limits should not be set! The most ridiculous non defence. No wonder the antis keep losing when things come to Court.

    The way this is going it would not surprise me if on Appeal an increased sentence is handed down, and those responsible will bleat it was unfair whilst others pay the price.

    • Do yo really not understand, that speeding without justifiable reason, is different, to any action, with justifiable reason ?

      Whether or not the court chooses to disregard such reason, is a different issue.

  7. Silly Sherwulfe, try telling a Court there is a difference between which laws should be obeyed and which should not. Maybe some Judges will feel some laws are not as sound as others, but the risk then is others will feel exactly the opposite.
    Suggest you test it in Court yourself.

  8. Mr Collyer…I might raise the issues of the Hunting Act and the strange way that Hunt supporters (in the field) and riders are, at worst ‘scolded’ for serious assaults on both monitors and sabs whilst the latter, even when presenting either the court or the Police with video evidence are effectively brushed off.To suggest that there is not an agenda or a ‘preference’ in the judiciary is naive at least. Add to that the ‘source’ of the majority of these judges and you begin to wonder where natural justice lies buried. At the end of the day, there comes a point when the only thing that is left to fight a law which is either wrong or is being misapplied is civil disobedience. If you want to do some research into some historical examples, facets and ramifications of THAT, I’m sure we can wait for you to catch up.

  9. Wow, so our prisons are overcrowded and three non violent protesters are jailed because the government, Sajid Javid and Clare Perry specifically, support a massive corporation who want profit over people. Questions about the judges impartiality. This is insane. Next step, sell the NHS to the US completely and don’t dare protest little people or the bully boys and girls will throw you in jail.

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