Fracking protesters guilty of trespass

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A group of anti fracking campaigners who had to be physically cut away from a plastic pipe during a heated protest at an industrial site have been found guilty of aggravated trespass.

District Judge Jane Goodwin, sitting at Preston Magistrates’ Court, made the judgement after hearing how the defendants were involved in a “pop-up protest” in which 20 protestors descended on plant firm A-Plant, in Penwortham, near Preston, on June 19.

The company supplies to Cuadrilla - the firm at the centre of fracking operations in Lancashire.

The judge ordered the defendants to be sentenced in a two day hearing on October 24 and 25.

During the trial, prosecutor Vincent Yip described how at 7.20am, Lancashire Police had to mount an operation to tackle the protestors, who were lay on the ground across the gates in sleeping bags, blocking staff from A-Plant and other firms entering and exiting the site at Factory Lane Trading Estate, which the court agreed is private property.

The defendants were locked in pairs of three sets of two, with one arm inserted into a piece of tubing, and refused to leave.

All five defendants; Calum Eden, 21, of no fixed abode; Barbara Ann Cookson, 66, of Lawrence Road, Liverpool; Shona Sutherland, 39, of New Hope protection camp, Preston New Road, Blackpool; Ashley Robinson, 22, of Cornwall Avenue, Blackpool and Michaela Smith, 57, of New Hope Camp, Preston New Road, Blackpool, were convicted of aggravatde tresapss and besetting a business place intending to prevent them doing a legal act.

In a statement Michael Humphries, service centre manager at A-Plant, told the trial how protestors lay in front of the gates with sleeping bags, umbrellas and signs, and the lock had been glued.

The firm couldn’t move any HGVs, affecting six deliveries and 20 pick ups, and effectively lost a days work.”