An environmental campaigner has been found guilty of aggravated trespass at a fracking site in Lancashire.
Zoe Smith, 35, of Luckwell Road, Bristol, failed to comply with a direction to leave from police after invading the site at Banks near Preston and scaling a drilling rig while exploratory work to took place to find shale gas.
The group was protesting at the site to highlight the environmental impact they believe is caused by the controversial method of extracting gas.
Smith, a full time student, took part in the protest on December 1 last year a month after a similar incident at the site. She attached herself to the rig and stayed for several hours. As a result of the invasion the Cuadrilla site was closed for the rest of the day at a cost £75,000.
Smith has been fined £250, ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and £750 costs. District Judge Peter Ward, sitting a Preston Magistrates Court, said: “The defendant believes environmental crimes were committed and she also believed she was preventing a greater crime of fracking. The defendant was not aware of particular offences being committed other than what she described a the offence of fracking. I accept there are serious matters to be considered about the process of fracking. Nevertheless fracking is not a criminal offence in itself. I am satisfied the defendant is very opposed to it and it is for that reason she invaded the site.
“She wished to make a political protest,.”
Turning to her he added: “I appreciate you have genuinely and honestly held views about fracking but at the same time it is a long established procedure. We do live in a democratic society where there are democratic processes if everyone takes the law into their own hands it defeats the object of democratic processes in a free society.”
The court heard that Smith was subject to a conditional discharge from a court in Wales for a protest at a mining site earlier this year.
Meanwhile the cases against Spencer Pawling, 43, of Chaplin Road, Bristol, and Emma Byron, 41, of Philip Street, Bristol, were charged following the same anti fracking protest.
But both were formally discharged Wednesday after District Judge Ward, agreed with legal arguments that the offence of trespass couldn’t be proven because the defendants were stopped by security teams before they could do any harm.