Four people who took part in a protest at the Horse Hill oil site in Surrey in June have said their actions have been vindicated after charges were dropped.
The Crown Prosecution Service told the two women and two men their cases had been discontinued because there was “not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction”.
But the campaigners, all members of Extinction Rebellion, have said there was abundant photographic evidence reported by news outlets.
Margaret Mulowska, 33, from Staines and Venetia Carter, 56, from Brighton, locked themselves together across the entrance gate. They denied obstruction.
Simon Sinclair, 30, and Christopher Smith, 43, from Kingston, climbed over a fence into the site and unfurled a “climate emergency” banner. They denied trespass.
Their trials had been expected during 2021.
Mrs Carter, a tutor, said:
“I was astonished that my case was dropped for this reason. I pleaded not guilty because I understood that I had a right to peacefully protest against the extraction of oil at this site as continuing to burn oil can only lead to more climate upheaval.
“There is plenty of photographic evidence that we took this action so I’m bemused that there is ‘not enough evidence’.”
Social worker, Ms Mulowska, said:
“Is dropping charges a tacit admission that UKOG are the real criminals here? Even the tanker drivers that day, and the arresting officers who dealt with us, were on our side.”
Mr Sinclair, a trainer of volunteers, said:
“For me, dropping these cases shows that, not only should our actions be deemed not criminal, but firmly in the public interest and for the public good.
“This is clear vindication of our actions by the authorities, and show that actions like this are necessary to avoid future environmental and societal collapse.”
Mr Smith, a renewable energy engineer, said:
“This signals to me that the courts are becoming less inclined to uphold prosecutions against peaceful and meaningful protest that seeks to highlight the climate emergency.”
In the past 12 months, there have been a number of slow-walk and lock-on protests, as well as occupations at Horse Hill.
Surrey County Council granted planning permission for 20 years of oil production at the site on 11 September 2019. A two-day hearing earlier this month challenged the council’s decision (DrillOrDrop reports here and here). The judgement was reserved to a date to be fixed.
A civil injunction remains in force at the Horse Hill site, prohibiting trespass. UK Oil & Gas plc, the owner of site operator, said after the June protest:
“Dependent upon the outcome of any criminal prosecution, the Company is considering whether to seek committal hearings for the individuals for the blatant injunction breach.”