Judge criticises prosecution as lack of evidence sees anti-fracking protesters walk free over Preston New Road 'lock-on'

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Nine anti-fracking protesters were told they had no case to answer after a judge criticised prosecuters over an "absence of evidence" put forward at trial.

The hearing at Blackpool Magistrates' Court, which had been due to last five days, was called off at the end of day two.

Blackpool Magistrates' Court heard the anti--fracking protesters locked on outside the gates to Cuadrilla's shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton. Photo: Getty Images

Blackpool Magistrates' Court heard the anti--fracking protesters locked on outside the gates to Cuadrilla's shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton. Photo: Getty Images

READ MORE: The latest news from Blackpool Magistrates' Court - March 26, 2019
The group had been accused of willfully blocking Preston New Road as part of a protest outside Cuadrilla's fracking site on October 1 and 2 last year.

The court had heard the protesters locked on under metal tepees at the entrance to the shale gas exploration site at Little Plumpton.

Giving evidence, Cuadrilla site manager Christopher Flint said 25 delivery lorries had to be cancelled.

However the Crown was criticised by District Judge Jane Goodwin for not bringing evidence from the police or members of the local community about the effect of protest and whether or protesters were given the five-step appeal by police before their arrest.

Judge Goodwin said: "I have looked at the tenuous nature of the Crown’s evidence and I find lacking in parts.

"We know there was a police cordon and a contraflow but I do not know the reasons behind this and for how long they were in place.

“This court is at a loss at the absence of evidence and as such is deprived of the right to evaluate it.”

Liz Beck, 57; Hamish Haynes, 44; Theodoros Papadakis, 22; Fiona Smith, 46; Ellie Stanton, 25; Christopher Wilson, 57; Heather cross, 28, all of the New Hope protest camp, Preston New Road; Jennifer Harper, 52, of Maple Farm, Preston New Road; and Gordon Holian, 50, of no fixed address were all acquitted.