First prosecution of fracking protesters

Police at the site of the anti-fracking demonstration

Police at the site of the anti-fracking demonstration

The first prosecution of people involved in anti fracking protests has started in court.

Two women pleaded not guilty to obstructing the highway- the A583 – outside the shale gas fracking site by Cuadrilla operated at Plumpton near Blackpool.

This is not a trial about the rights and wrongs of fracking or those involved in the process

They are 54-year-old Louise Hammond of Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, and Natalie Middleton, 32, of Water Street, Chorley.

On January 27 the duo became the first to be arrested during the protests, District Judge Roger Lower was told at Blackpool Magistrates Court.

Malcolm Isherwood, prosecuting,said there was a lawful right to peaceful protest enshrined in British law.

“However what the Crown is saying is that what happened was unreasonable and obstructive,” said the prosecutor.

“This is not a trial about the rights and wrongs of fracking or those involved in the process.”

The judge heard that police attention was drawn to Hammond when she locked her hands on metal fencing bordering the site.

After talking to police she released herself but an hour later was seen by officer trying to block a white van leaving the drilling area by doing what the prosecutor called a “slow dad dance” in front of it.

“She was moving slowly from side to side,” he said.

She then turned her attention,it was alleged, to a large lorry leaving the site and started to slow walk in front of it .

The lorry was holding up traffic using the A583 and after Hammond was arrested Middleton took her place before she was in turn arrested.

Police Sgt Anthony Doherty, who was in charge of the police operation that day. said that when Hammond was arrested she was found in possession of a tube of glue and a lockable chain.

“When Miss Hammond was asked her name and address she told officer she was going into a nunnery,” he said.

He added:”On that day we gave her every opportunity to stop committing and offence.

“However, these women had put themselves in danger in front of the front grille of the wagon and their slow walk caused a back log of traffic.”

Proceeding