Judge Altham handed out prison sentences of 16 months to Richard Roberts (who had stayed on his lorry for a staggering 84 hours, 19 minutes!) and to Simon Blevins; whilst Rich Loizou received a prison sentence of 15 months. Julian Brock received a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. The 3 sent to prison are the first people in the UK to be jailed for taking part in peaceful anti-fracking protests. The crowd of about 60 anti-fracking campaigners, who had gathered outside the court for the start of the hearing, were shocked by the severity of the sentences:
“It is a mark of a civilised society that it can accommodate protest.”
But, clearly, the UK doesn’t seem to be able to accommodate even entirely peaceful protest. As was pointed out in court, the motivation of the Frack Free Four was to act for future generations and the future of the planet; and, at all times, this was an entirely peaceful political protest against an industry that has been either permanently or temporarily banned in many European countries.
After the sentences were handed down, Rosalind Blevins, mother of Simon Blevins, had this to say:
“My son and the others were working under a social conscience for the good of the planet. I am proud of them for standing up against climate change. There is no doubt about climate change. 98% of scientists agree that climate chaos is happening. We have all got to stand up and reduce our use of fossil fuels now.”
Miranda Cox, a campaigner against Cuadrilla’s operations in Lancashire and a Kirkham Town councillor, said: “This is a very dark day for British justice and for democracy.”
Whilst Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said: "It's a strange society that massively rewards those responsible for causing more climate change while putting those trying to stop it in jail. Ministers have changed laws, taken away homeowners' rights and distorted the planning process to make way for the shale industry, yet it's four peaceful protesters that get punished for climbing on a lorry.”
Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, who has campaigned against the onshore oil and gas industry in south-east England, said: “Any government that conspires with the dirty fossil fuel industry against its own people is rotten to the core. Dissent is not a crime in any country with a political system fit to be called a democracy. Consequently, the sentences handed to the frack-free four are chilling.”
But it seems that things may get worse before they get better: just the other day, a young female protester’s arm was broken by a police officer at Preston New Road:
If the dirty energy companies, and their many facilitators, think injunctions, prison sentence and ‘robust’ policing will stop the movement to protect our water, communities and climate from fracking, they are in for a surprise!
What is to be done now?
There is no time to waste.
Allan Todd is a member of Allerdale & Copeland Green Party, an anti-fracking activist and a Green Left supporter