Three fracking activists sentenced to jail for blocking access to a fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire have had their sentences overturned by the court of appeal after being labelled “manifestly excessive”.
Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, Richard Roberts, 36 and Richard Loizou, 31, had been sentenced to between 15 and 16 months in prison for taking part in a ‘truck surfing’ protest in July 2017, which saw them climb onto and remain on top of trucks delivering fracking equipment to the Lancashire site for a total of 72 hours.
The sentences handed down to the three protestors were condemned for being unnecessarily harsh and led to protestors gathering outside the courts when their custodial sentences were announced.
Speaking at the appeal, Sir Ian Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, said: “We have concluded that an immediate custodial sentence in the case of these defendants was manifestly excessive.
“In our judgment the appropriate sentence was a community order with a significant requirement of unpaid work. But these appellants have been in custody now for two weeks, the equivalent of a six-week prison sentence. As a result, and only for that reason, we’ve concluded that the only appropriate sentence is a conditional discharge.”
Commenting on the release of the activists, Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, said: “The release of three anti-fracking heroes from jail is a victory for peaceful protest. These sentences were not only heavy handed and wrong, they were part of a nationwide clamp down on dissent making it harder and harder for campaigners to stand up against climate destruction.
“The Green Party stands shoulder to shoulder with Richard, Richard and Roscoe as they celebrate their freedom today. The anti-fracking movement is stronger than ever. We will not give up this fight until Britain is free of this dirty and destructive industry.”
The release of the activists comes days after fracking company Cuadrilla was given the green light to begin fracking at the Preston New Road site. A legal injunction had been lodged against Lancashire County Council in a bid to prevent the fracking from going ahead, but the request was denied on 12 October by a High Court judge.
Despite the ruling, campaigners from the Reclaim the Power group blocked the entrance to the site on Monday (15 October) to try and stop the work from going ahead, with police forced to close the road.
Speaking on the Today Programme on Monday morning, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas insisted that protest would continue at the site, despite the court rulings.