Three anti-fracking protesters have been found in contempt of court at Manchester High Court today for breaching the terms of a wide-ranging anti-protest injunction. They could of faced up to 2 years in prison, although the judge has said he will not be giving the protesters a custodial sentence.
Quadrilla had brought the case to court after a protest where three environmental protesters, Chris Wilson, Lee Walsh and Katrina Lawrie blocked the entrance to their Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool locking their arms inside tubes. This is the first case of its kind in the UK, Robert Lizar solicitors issued a press release stating “as far as we are aware this is the first time a company has attempted to bring preceding against protesters for allegedly breaching a ‘persons unknown’ injunction.”
Quadrilla had claimed that the protesters had breached the injunction which prohibited disrupting the company’s operations and today the judge agreed. Early this year in a similar case at the Court Of Appeal a judge ruled that the injunction was unlawful as it would be very difficult for protesters to know whether they were in breach of it. The protesters defence had argued that this decision is binding on The High Court and the three protesters could not have possibly understood the order. They had also argued that under human rights law the judge must decide whether the protesters were reasonable and proportionate arguing that this is an important case and because the protests were peaceful they were therefore were reasonable and proportionate. But the judge today ruled that these protests were proven to be of a criminal standard.
In their press release Robert Lizar solicitors stated “Injunctions such as this have a chilling effect on the right to peaceful protest Britain has a proud history of protest, it forms the essence of civic society, to the actions of the suffragettes to the “Blackpool 3” civil disobedience has long been exercised as a form of legitimate protest.”