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Lancaster's fracking protesters fined. Please give generously!

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Police attempting to cut through car lock-on on 27 July 2018
Police attempting to cut through car lock-on on 27 July 2018
Author: 
Chris Satori

After a two-day trial this week, both the Lancaster defendants who had been 'passengers' in the 27th July two-car lock-on protest (11 hours!) at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road fracking site were found guilty of Obstruction of the Highway in Blackpool Magistrates' Court. They were sentenced on Wednesday 14 February 2018 to pay £500 in costs, £60 in 'victim surcharge' [?], and fines totalling £574 for the two defendants, £1,124 in all. 

A fundraising campaign has been launched locally to help them pay and you can donate towards it on JustGiving, here.

You can see a video of the protest at https://youtu.be/aioFqbyWKvE

The drivers and passengers of both cars had created a number of rigid steel devices that locked them and the cars in their places. After 11 hours, the site having closed for the night, the occupants of the final car released themselves, as they had done such a thorough job it became apparent that the police were unable to release them, and they felt they had made their point. 

The drivers of the cars were also originally included in the charges, but were released because during the action police had issued both the cars with parking penalty tickets - and as they had already been fined the drivers could not be tried a second time for the same offence. Oops. 

As only the drivers were eligible for legal aid the remaining defendants found themselves with just one day to prepare their defence themselves.

The magistrates took 5 hours to read case law, come to a verdict and write the judgement, after Tuesday was taken up with the prosecution case (two police officers and video) and the defence (a 10-point defence of 'lawful excuse'). 

The defendants argued that they believed their actions or 'use of the highway' were reasonable and gave them 'lawful excuse' for the obstruction.  The magistrates relied on a dictionary definition of 'reasonable', and the judgement in the fracking company Ineos' injunction, which ruled that blocking the highway with lock-ons "would not be regarded as a reasonable use of the highway".

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Lock on device makes it difficult to move a car
Lock on device makes it difficult to move a car

 

The defendants had specifically asked them to disregard this ruling, as they were free to, because it was a civil injunction and not a criminal case, and was brought as part of the attempts of the fracking industry to make effective protest illegal, in their own interests. Local democratic processes had been overruled and they pointed out that this process itself is part of the massive imbalance of power, resources and influence that had led them to take the action they did in the first place. However, the magistrates decided that they were persuaded by the argument in the Ineos injunction case.

A fundraising campaign is being launched to help the defendants with the costs and fines and a benefit gig is being planned. You can find out more at the Lancaster Fights Fracking fb group page.

 

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