The only two campaigners arrested during four months of protests outside Egdon’s oil exploration site at Biscathorpe in Lincolnshire were found not guilty yesterday (1 August 2019).
Elizabeth Williams, 60, and Geoff Jones, 74, both from Lincoln, were acquitted at a trial before a district judge at Lincoln Magistrates Court.
After a protest on 4 January 2019, Mr Jones had been charged with obstructing the highway and Ms Williams with obstructing a police officer. They were banned from visiting the site.
But yesterday, Judge Peter Veits ruled they had reasonably and proportionately exercised their human right to protest.
Campaigners against Egdon’s operation took part in sit-down and slow-walking protests outside the Biscathorpe site between November 2018 and February 2019.
They criticised the company’s oil exploration operation in the Wolds Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) and near a protected chalk.
During the protests, only Ms Williams and Mr Jones were arrested.
In July 2019, Egdon used the Biscathorpe arrests to justify increased security at North Kelsey, another of its site in Lincolnshire.
The company sought planning consent for 12 extra security cabins, two lighting towers, water and fuel tanks and a generator. The company said it had taken advice from Lincolnshire Police.
The county council granted planning permission after Egdon’s planning consultant said the nature and scale of protests at Biscathorpe could be repeated at North Kelsey.
Yesterday, climate campaigners demonstrated outside the court. After the verdict, Ms Williams said:
“Lincolnshire campaigners feel vindicated by the result.
“Egdon Resources accused protesters at Biscathorpe of generating hostility.
“But our bottom line is to do no harm. We are motivated to act because of the greater harm being caused on the other side of the site gates: new deep exploratory drilling in the AONB at a time of climate emergency.”
In response to Egdon’s application for increased security at North Kelsey, Ms Williams said:
“This was based on distorted and spurious evidence about protest activity at Biscathorpe.
“Egdon Resources say they liaise closely with the police and take their advice.
“But we formed an amicable relationship with the police over the months of protest at Biscathorpe.
“The police respected how carefully thought-through and risk-assessed are activities are and that our intention is utterly peaceful.”
“We were left with no other recourse after pursuing legal, democratic and planning process to no avail. This result empowers all peaceful protesters.”