Judge's blast at anti-fracking protesters from the Fylde
Anti-fracking campaigners from the Fylde had to be physically cut away from a plastic pipe during a heated protest at the gates of an industrial site.
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The group is on trial at Preston Magistrates’ Court over trespass allegations during a “pop-up protest” in which 20 protesters descended on plant firm A-Plant, in Penwortham, near Preston, which supplies Cuadrilla – the energy firm at the centre of fracking operations in Lancashire.
During the incident, at 7.20am on June 19, Lancashire Police had to mount an operation to tackle the protesters, who laid on the ground across the gates in sleeping bags, blocking staff from entering and exiting the site at Factory Lane Trading Estate.
District Judge Jane Goodwin ordered two of the defendants to change their clothing, which included anti-fracking messages, before the trial began yesterday.
“They are wearing attire that expresses certain views - I know what this case is about but I wouldn’t expect that display in my court,” he said.
Prosecuting, Vincent Yip, said: “Among the protesters, 18 to 20 in total, these six defendants were locked in pairs of three sets of two, and each person had one arm inserted into a piece of plastic tubing.
“They were spoken to by both the police and (employees), asking all the defendants to leave. They refused to do so and at approximately 10.30am the police arrested each defendant.”
The judge told off the defendants for sniggering as a police officer recalled how when he arrested Calum Eden, 21, of no fixed abode, he replied: “Can I go back to sleep now?” The court also heard Barbara Ann Cookson, 66, of Lawrence Road, Liverpool, and Shona Sutherland, 39, of New Hope protection camp, Preston New Road, were locked together.
Along with Ashley Robinson, 22, of Cornwall Avenue, North Shore, and Michaela Smith, 57, of New Hope Camp, Preston New Road, and Eden, they are charged with aggravated trespass, and besetting a place with a view to causing them to abstain from doing a legal act.
In a statement Michael Humphries, service centre manager at A-Plant, said: “I addressed the protesters directly asking them if they would move away from the gates.
“I explained they were stopping people going about their daily business. They again refused to move and I left the situation with police.”