West Newton lock-on trial collapses

191112 trial acquittal

Natalie Morris, Dan Ashman and Aaron Bell outside Hull Magistrates Court, 12 November 2019. Photo: Used with owner’s consent

The case against three people who took part in a protest outside Rathlin Energy’s oil exploration site in East Yorkshire was dismissed today.

Dan Ashman, Aaron Bell and Natalie Morris denied obstructing a police officer and obstructing the highway outside the West Newton site in June 2019.

Their trial collapsed halfway through when Hull Magistrates Court heard evidence that the council had officially closed the road during the protest.

A district judge dismissed all the charges against the three, saying there was no direct evidence that they had obstructed the road. She described it as “an unusual case”.

The lock-on protest started on 10 June and continued until 11 June 2019.

On the afternoon of the first day of the protest, East Riding of Yorkshire Council formally closed the road. (DrillOrDrop report)

Speaking after the trial, Dan Ashman said he was relieved at the verdict. He said: “on this occasion justice was served”.

  • The case against two women who were arrested after chalking on the road outside the West Newton site was listed today for 24 April 2020 at Grimsby Magistrates Court.
  • A trial of 12 people at Blackpool Magistrates Court involved in a protest outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in May 2018 was adjourned today until 2020.

11 replies »

  1. Good news! But “arrested after chalking on the road”? Seriously? Is everyone who has ever played hopscotch a criminal now?

  2. Ah,o reminds me of a typical tactic by the police at PNR. Close the road at the slightest opportunity if it does not affect the operations of the fracking operator and then blame the protesters for the road closure to attempt to alienate the motoring public. The classic at PNR was to slowly escort the Pete Marquis rubbage skip to the gate in order to antagonize the more vociferous and active protestors/protectors into the road. This was typically at the end of the day when no more important vehicle arrivals were due at the site. Then, gleefully close the road for an hour or so to wind up the commuters. Contrary to the slowly escorted skip convoy, during the working day, large lorries carrying vital fracking equipment would arrive at dangerous speed to screech onto the site with reckless abandon….

    • Richard, it was the council that closed the road by putting in place a temporary traffic regulation order, due to safety concerns.

      • John Harrison. It’s true the road was closed by the council. Having visited the road, or rather track to just a couple of houses, myself, I very much doubt there were any safety concerns other than those taking place on the site.

        • Pauline Jones, the road was closed due to safety concerns and because the residents of High Fosham had been prevented from having access to their homes on 11 occasions due to the actions of the activists.

          As for safety on the site, the HSE were only concerned with one incident, that being the method used to lower the vent pipe during demobilisation of equipment following the installation of the conductor casing.
          All EA Compliance Assessment Reports were squeaky clean I believe.

          One of the community liaison group members who is strongly opposed to the exploration activities at West Newton even went so far as to congratulate Rathlin on these achievements during the last liaison meeting.

          • It’s a narrow lane in ththe middle of nowhere. What were the safety concerns? Are you saying the council closed the road to prevent the right to peaceful protest? I would question whether that is within the council’s remit.

            • Pauline Jones, you didn’t seem too concerned regarding the road closure in your posts back in June when DoD reported on the issue.

              Peaceful protest was facilitated at the site and the surrounding area.

              However the activists chose to ignore the human rights of the innocent families living at High Fosham, by taking action that prevented access to and from the properties on 11 occasions.

              In doing so the activists denied those families their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

              Public authorities like councils need to take positive steps to protect everyone’s rights, not just those of the activists.

  3. Sorry for the belated input. So why was the road closed? Safety due to the presence of demonstrators /protectors/protestors or due to site works or both? John Harrison, I stated that it reminded me of PNR, not that the case is a direct replica – it just seemed pertinent in that a road closure is invariably attributed/associated with protest and is often clearly unnecessary.

  4. The road is single track that is only wide enough for one vehicle.
    There is no lighting and no footpaths.
    Although vehicles to the site are restricted to a maximum of 25mph, the speed limit on the road for everyone else is 60mph.
    The road was closed for the safety of the activists, road users and the residents of High Fosham.
    Protest including slow walking of vehicles was still able to take place from the top of Piper’s Lane along the traffic route where it was safer to do so.

    • Thanks for the insight and info. They introduced a speed limit of 20mph past the PNR entrance in a 50mph zone for all vehicles which seemed prudent, largely ignored by Cuadrilla traffic, often ignored by protesters, general public and police…

      • Protests took place on a wider stretch of a quiet rural road with a 40mph speed limit during the times Pipers Lane was closed, one that is no where near as busy as PNR.

        Did the protesters block the access to residential properties for a couple of days at a time at PNR, like they did here in West Newton?

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