Councillors among dozen found guilty of blocking Preston New Road during anti-fracking protest

Three Lancashire councillors have been found guilty of wilfully obstructing the highway when they took part in a 10-hour anti-fracking protest.

Friday, 17th November 2017, 12:51 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 6:17 am
The 12 defendants were found guilty of obstructing the highway - but acquitted of stopping Cuadrilla staff from working

The trio were charged with obstructing the highway during a lock-on protest outside the Cuadrilla gas exploration site on Preston New Road in July 3 this year .

The councillors and nine others were all acquitted of preventing Cuadrilla staff from going about their lawful work under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act.

The three are Fylde councillor Julie Brickles, 52, of Harbour Lane, Warton; Kirkham town councillor Miranda Cox, 48, of Ribby Road, Kirkham and Lancashire county councillor Gina Dowding, 55, of Aldciffe Road, Lancaster.

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The others are Sarah Boyle, 30, of Mowbray Road, Fleetwood; Barbara Cookson, 66, of Lawrence Grove, Liverpool; Nicholas Danby, 55, of Preston New Road, Inskip; Daniel Huxley Blythe, 35, of Rutland Road, Ansdell; Catherine Jackson, 49, of Mowbray Road, Fleetwood; Michelle Martin, 45, of Queensway, Warton; Alana McCullough, 52, of Wingrove Road, Fleetwood; Jeanette Porter, 31, of Shepherd Road, St Annes; Nick Sheldrick, 36, of Clayton Crescent, South Shore.

All 12 were given a year long conditional discharge by District Judge Jeff Brailsford sitting at Blackpool Magistrates Court.must each pay £250 court costs and £20 victim surcharge.

Prosecutor Cecilia Pritchard told the hearing that the 12 defendants had locked on using barrels and pipes across the entire entrance of the Cuadrilla site on the A583.

She said: “This blocked any Cuadrilla staff from entering the site and any vehicular access.

“The protest lasted from about 8am and the last defendant to be freed was at around 6pm.”

Certain evidence had been agreed between the prosecution and defence including the fact that a news report of the incident quoted a Cuadrilla spokesman as saying the protest had not affected work on the site on the day.

Footage revealed the scale of that day’s events with anti-frackers manning two towers built at each side of the site entrance.

The judge told the court: “Fracking is what took various people to this location. The trials which have followed are not to do with fracking – they are whether or not the Crown can prove criminal offending by the many defendants who have been arrested.”

“Cuadrilla and indeed the decision and actions of central government are not on trial here.”

The judge said the 12 defendants had admitted they could have unlocked themselves from their barrel and pipe devices at any time during the protest.

In his judgement he said the protest had been planned the previous day.

He said the defendants were acquitted of hindering Cuadrilla staff because of lack of evidence.

He added he was ‘wholly certain’ all of the defendants had been on the public highway and had caused disruption lasting hours.