Monthly Archives: June 2016

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Horse Hill trial verdict – not guilty of Obstruction of the Highway!

Anti-fracking campaigners found not guilty in Horse Hill trial

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Nine anti-fracking campaigners have been found not guilty of wilful obstruction of the highway following protests outside the Horse Hill exploration site near Horley in the trial at Redhill Magistrates Court which lasted all last week.

 

The nine had all been arrested for ‘slow walking’ – making their peaceful protest by walking in front of lorries delivering to the site and leaving – during February and March 2016, while flow tests were being conducted.

 

The prosecution said that this was an obstruction of the highway. However, having studied the evidence, including footage of the arrests, Judge William Ashworth concluded that the defendants were all walking at a “reasonable” speed, and that their method of protest was not unreasonable or disproportionate.

 

District Judge Ashworth said, “By and large the protest at Horse Hill can be characterised as a dignified and peaceful protest”. He said he was concerned about the deteriorating relationship between police and protesters and said, “It is a shame they [the police] did not reach an accommodation to allow the protests to proceed in a manner that did not require arrests.”

 

This verdict follows not guilty verdicts for slow-walking anti-fracking campaigns in Balcombe, Barton Moss, Crawberry Hill and West Newton. [1]

 

One of the campaigners, Paddy Horne, said: “I am very happy. The fight goes on. It is very important to nip any infringements [of human rights] in the bud. The defence barristers and Judge Ashworth summarised that this case centred on freedom of speech and it was said we were “speaking truth to power”.”

 

Sarah Finch from Frack Free Surrey said, “The ‘not guilty’ verdicts are a huge relief for the people involved, and a vindication of the right to peaceful protest. Across the UK, people power is keeping the threat of unconventional oil and gas drilling at bay. We will continue to use our right to peaceful protest to oppose further drilling at Horse Hill.”

 

UK Oil & Gas Investments, one of the companies with interests in the Horse Hill well, has announced it plans to return for further testing this year. UKOG makes no bones about the fact it plans to use unconventional techniques, including multi-well pads, horizontal drilling and acid stimulation, nor that it sees Horse Hill as a gateway to further drilling right across the Weald basin. The company recently acquired a further 300 km sq licence in West Sussex which includes the site at Broadford Bridge.

 

Read more about the trial and the verdict at https://drillordrop.com/2016/06/17/nine-horse-hill-anti-fracking-protesters-cleared-trial-judge-regrets-arrests/

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[1] Frack Free Surrey understands that of more than a hundred arrests for obstruction of the highway for slow walking vehicles, every person who has defended the charge has been declared ‘not guilty’.

 

 

 

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News from UKOG, and from the law court

UKOG have acquired a further 300 km sq licence at the centre of the Weald

Yesterday, the case against one of the protester arrested during demonstrations outside the Horse Hill exploratory oil site near Gatwick Airport was dropped.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was offering no evidence against Kieran Dunne, one of ten people currently on trial for peaceful protests earlier this year. The trial of the other nine continues today.

Journalist Ruth Hayhurst is following the trial, look for updates on drillordrop.com

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Campaigners on trial for peaceful protests at Horse Hill this week – but who is guilty?

Photo opportunity: 9am prompt Tuesday 14 June, Redhill Magistrates Court, Hatchlands Road, Redhill, RH1 6DH

 Twelve of the 19 people arrested for peacefully protesting against oil drilling at Horse Hill, near Horley, in February and March, are on trial this week. [1]

The twelve were arrested for ‘slow walking’ lorries delivering supplies to the drill site during February and March 2016, while flow tests were being conducted. Slow walking is a legal form of protest. [2]

The trial will begin on Monday 13 June at Guildford Magistrates’ Court (1pm) and will continue from Tuesday 14 to Friday 17 June at South East Surrey Magistrates’ Court, Redhill.  It is anticipated that the trial will attract a lot of support due to the contentious nature of the criminal charges.

 Meanwhile UK Oil & Gas Investments, one of the companies with interests in the Horse Hill well, has announced it plans to return for further testing this year. UKOG makes no bones about the fact they plan to use unconventional techniques, including multi-well pads, horizontal drilling and acid stimulation; techniques also known as Hydraulic Fracturing.   UKOG and Horse Hill Developments also speculate on further drilling in the area making the Horse Hill operation a ‘gateway’ to further drilling across the Weald basin. [3]

Dave Doktor, one of the defendants, says, “I protested peacefully at Horse Hill because the extraction of oil risks damaging the local ecology, the health of local residents and the global climate. There are larger plans for drilling in the Surrey area and across The Weald, so it’s crucial that communities come together and resist it.”

“By arresting us, the police tried to criminalise peaceful protest. But who is really guilty here? Ordinary people who risk arrest and personal liberty to draw attention to the devastation caused by unconventional oil drilling, or an industry that damages the health of local communities and causes catastrophic climate change?”

Rob Basto, from Reigate, says, “Local residents are grateful to the brave and principled people who came to Horse Hill this year to protest against the oil drilling that threatens to industrialise our area and wreck the local environment and the climate. If the government won’t protect the climate and the environment, ordinary, responsible people have to take a stand.”

 

Notes for Editors

[1] The 12 defendants have all pleaded not guilty, and believe their actions were justified in the face of the environmental and public health threat posed by the drilling plans.

[2] In January 2016, a test case against two anti-fracking ‘slow walk’ protectors arrested at Barton Moss, Greater Manchester, resulted in a not guilty verdict. In acquitting the pair, District Judge Nicholas Sanders said: “They were entitled to demonstrate, were entitled to walk along Barton Moss Road”.

[3] For UKOG’s interests in the Weald basin, see https://drillordrop.com/2016/05/27/uk-oil-gas-raises-4m-for-weald-operations/

*As well as risking criminalisation for peacefully protesting, the defendants have also had to suffer threats and harassment from UKOG investors. For this reason we would be grateful if names of defendants can be kept from the public arena if this is possible. This matter is currently under investigation by Surrey Police.*

 

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Horse Hill protectors in court

 

PLEASE NOTE CHANGE TO TRIAL LOCATION ON MONDAY 13 JUNE

12 of the 19 people who were arrested for ‘slow walking’ lorries to the drill site at Horse Hill will be on trial between 13 and 17 June.

The trials will begin on Monday 13 June at Guildford Magistrate’s Court at 1.30pm. They will continue from Tuesday 14 to Friday 17 June at South East Surrey Magistrates Court, Hatchlands Road, Redhill, Surrey, RH1 6DH

If you can, please come along to show your support for the protectors outside the court – either at Guildford on Monday afternoon or at Redhill on Tuesday morning from 9am.

Sign up at the Facebook event page

And if you’d like to help with their travel costs, you can donate here