A court in Blackpool ruled today there was no case to answer against nine anti-fracking activists who took part in the longest lock-on protest outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site.
District judge Jane Goodwin called off the trial after criticising prosecutors over a lack of evidence.
The campaigners had denied charges of wilfully obstructing Preston New Road at the entrance to Cuadrilla’s fracking site.
The court heard that a contraflow was in operation during the protest and deliveries had been delayed.
But the judge intervened at the end of the prosecution case to complain that there had been no evidence from the police or local community about the effect of the protest. She also said there was no evidence on whether the police had used the five-step appeal process before making arrests.
“This court is at a loss at the absence of evidence and as such is deprived of the right to evaluate it.”
The case against all nine was dismissed.
One of the group, Jenny Harper, said she was elated at the outcome.
“We always thought we had a good case because our reasons for the protest were so strong. But it was just a question of whether the court acknowledged this.
“We also knew that the police had not gone through the proper procedures.”
The protest began on 1 October 2018 when seven people locked themselves together on the ground outside the site and two climbed onto metal tripods. The protest continued for 60 hours until police unlocked the last person.
The campaigners said at the time they were protesting in solidarity with three men who had been jailed the week before for an earlier protest outside the Preston New Road site.
The area of the protest was covered by a High Court injunction, awarded to Cuadrilla against designated anti-fracking actions, including lock-ons. At the time, the company said it would “absolutely take action whenever this is feasible”.