Two campaigners who locked themselves together outside the Horse Hill oil site near Gatwick Airport more than a year ago will not be prosecuted.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it had dropped charges against Gillian Fletcher and Steve Lowes because the case was not “in the public interest”. They had been due to appear at Staines Magistrates Court tomorrow (14 January 2021).
Both had been charged with wilful obstruction of the highway. It was alleged they locked their arms together in a steel pipe in front of the Horse Hill gates for eight hours on 10 December 2019.
The campaigners, members of the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion, were informed on 8 January 2021 that the charges against them had been dropped.
The CPS said:
“The decision to discontinue these charges has been taken because a prosecution is not needed in the public interest.”
The action was part of an ongoing protest against a subsidiary of UK Oil & Gas plc, which has permission to produce oil at the site for 20 years.
Gillian Fletcher, 58, from Wokingham, said:
“We carried out this action over a year ago to bring attention to UKOG’s unnecessary and destructive plans to extract oil and gas across the south east.
“They intend to industrialise our precious countryside and ruin our environment in order to extract fossil fuels which we don’t need and which will contribute to our own extermination. We and others will not stand by silent and allow them to do this.”
Steve Lowes, 49 from Staines, said:
“The Government has been using the current health situation to subtly erode rights of protest in a way which will be difficult to reverse when the situation changes.
“They have been insisting on prosecuting peaceful protestors, forcing them to travel against their own guidelines to reach courts for hearings.
“The dropping of our charges as ‘not being needed in the public interest’ is perhaps an indication not only that some prosecutors are aware of who the real criminals are in this scenario, but that they are starting to exert their independence from political interference.”
In November 2020, the CPS discontinued charges against two women and two men, also members of Extinction Rebellion, following a separate protest at Horse Hill in June 2020. In that case, the CPS said there was “not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction”. Extinction Rebellion said there was “abundant photographic evidence reported by news outlets”.
An interim civil injunction remains in force at the Horse Hill site, prohibiting specified forms of protest.
UKOG said in December 2019 that it was considering whether to take formal action against Gillian Fletcher and Steve Lowes for contempt of court. The company accused them of being “in clear breach” of the injunction. So far, UKOG has not publicly pursued the pair.
A legal challenge to the injunction is due to be heard at the High Court next month. It is the first interim injunction secured by UK onshore oil and gas companies to go to trial to decide whether it should be made final.