Eleven citizens protesting fracking at Balcombe, UK, acquitted at Brighton Magistrates Court

Cleared fracking protester speaks of ‘vindication’ by West Sussex County Times, January 16, 2014
One of ten protesters cleared of obstructing a highway during an anti-fracking protest at Balcombe in July has spoken of his ‘relief’ at the court’s decision this week. Paul Deacon, 50, told the County Times that while the entire process had been ‘wearing’, he felt the trial had vindicated their and others’ right to protest peacefully. He and nine others were acquitted after a three-day trial at Brighton Magistrates’ Court. … On the district judge’s verdict Mr Deacon said: “It was a great sense of relief and vindication. “I always thought the protests were worthwhile anyway, but it was especially gratifying that he [the judge] praised our conduct and I think he understood that we were acting out of a sense of moral duty and responsibility.”

He added: “I hope people realise from our case that it’s perfectly legal to protest, and protest in a defiant manner as we did, and people should not be frightened from expressing their opinion. “It’s vital that people do express their opinion in public.”

Mr Deacon described the Balcombe site as a ‘peaceful carnival atmosphere’ and said he and others were merely sitting on a log at the roadside near the entrance to the drilling site when a large number of police arrived. He continued: “Suddenly they started moving people, threatening them with arrest, and generally trying to break up the protests outside of the gates. We were quite shocked and were reluctant to leave because we felt we were not doing anything wrong which is actually what the court has now ruled.”

Another firm, Celtique Energie, has permission for an exploratory well south of Billingshurst to look for conventional deposits. However, it is bidding for a second drilling site between Wisborough Green and Kirdford and has stated it will be looking for shale deposits.

Mr Deacon added: “It would have been pretty harsh to get a criminal record for sitting peacefully beside a road that was already closed. “It’s a huge relief but unfortunately the threat of fracking has not gone away.” He continued: “Fracking is a serious threat to Sussex and to England. It’s industrialisation of our countryside, there’s no doubt about that. There are so many levels on which it’s simply wrong.” [Emphasis added]

Anti-fracking protesters acquitted by itv, January 9, 2014
Eleven anti-fracking protesters charged with obstructing the highway, have been cleared at Brighton Magistrates Court. The demonstratons took place in Balcombe last summer when the energy company Cuadrilla drilled for shale gas reserves in Sussex. All eleven have been acquitted – they were accused of sitting on a log. Another protestor charged with assaulting a police officer by throwing a cup of tea, has also been cleared.

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