Press Release from Extinction Rebellion
An Extinction Rebellion activist charged with aggravated trespass after occupying a Surrey oil rig in October last year has been acquitted after the judge questioned the reliability of the prosecution witness.
Lindsay Parkin, 56, a management consultant from Brighton, appeared at Staines Magistrates Court this week (22 April) charged with aggravated trespass.
He was arrested after he and Alistair Sandell, 52, a horticulturalist from Uckfield, entered the UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) Horse Hill oil extraction site near Horley, in the early hours of 10 October 2020.
The two men climbed an oil rig on site to a platform 15 metres above the ground, where they hung a banner saying “No More Oil” and remained there for 12 hours, in protest against UKOG’s plans to extract oil and gas from the site.
“The only way to slow this carnage is to stop burning fossil fuels”
During his court appearance, Mr Parkin, who represented himself, said his action was proportionate and necessary given “the fact that human-made climate change is increasing the global average temperature and leading to rising sea levels, extreme weather events, crop failure, water shortage and wild fire, is no longer in dispute”.
He added: “The only way to slow this carnage is to stop burning fossil fuels – there are no other solutions.”
10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to be emitted from Horse Hill oil
Turning to the Horse Hill site, he criticised Surrey County Council for declaring a Climate Emergency and subsequently offering UKOG a 20 year licence at the site, which UKOG has claimed is the second largest land oil site in the UK.
He warned that if the Horse Hill site was left unnoticed and unchallenged more sites will be developed, adding that it would take 10 million trees 100 years to absorb the 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted by the burning of the oil extracted from the Horse Hill well.
During the trial Horse Hill site supervisor Sebastian Mills gave evidence on behalf of UKOG and said that Parkin’s action had delayed work on the site.
UKOG site supervisor had “tendency to exaggerate”
In summing up the judge explained that for Mr Parkin to be found guilty of the offence, he must be carrying out an activity which disrupts the company’s business. She noted that the defendant attended the site on a Saturday to draw attention to the cause and that he didn’t want to disrupt the site activities.
She pointed out that although the defendant had been spotted on the site’s CCTV at 4.30am staff took no action was taken until 9.30am, adding that there was no sense of sense of urgency or need to be able to get on with their work.
She said that Mr Mills also stated that it took site workers two hours to clear and check the platform after the defendant had come down, adding “this was an exaggeration.”
She pointed out that he had also had to call security to site pointing out that made it clear the site was not operational that day.
The judge also said that when Mr Mills was asked to provide more precise information about what was to be undertaken that day, he said he would need to refer to logs, but she noted that no independent evidence was given.
She added that Mills in giving evidence had said that due to the action, the site lost 24 hours’ work, adding: “This was an exaggeration.”
In conclusion the judge said that due to Mill’s “tendency to exaggerate, I cannot be absolutely certain of the work that was being undertaken at the weekend, and security was not there.
“In the circumstances, I cannot be sure that the site was operational, as Mr Mills over-exaggerated on three occasions, and therefore I acquit the defendant of the charge.”
“Non-violent direct action has proven its worth”
Following the trial Mr Parkin thanked the judge for her decision. He added: “I am pleased and elated that the judge has seen fit in this instance to decide we had no offence to answer in the case of aggravated trespass as the prosecution today had not persuasively proven their intention to work on the day in question.
“As with many of our dealings with UKOG we tell the truth with a simple message, courage and direct action to highlight the climate emergency.
“In contrast the site supervisor was described by the judge as having a ‘tendency to exaggeration’, which left her uncertain about crucial elements of his testimony.
“We occupied the rig to highlight its presence in that beautiful place and the harm it is doing. This message was widely spread and created the interest that it should, which was our sole purpose in this action.
“Our exertions in spreading that message have been accepted to not meet the charge of ‘aggravated trespass.’ Non-violent direct action has proven its worth in calling out the madness of continued oil extraction on this marginal site and everywhere.”
The occupation of the oil rig was part of a series of actions by Extinction Rebellion at the Horse Hill site over the past twenty months including slow walks, activists ‘locking on’ across the site gates and occupying containers within the site.
The protests aim to highlight the continued oil extraction at the Horse Hill site despite the declaration of a climate emergency by both the UK Government and Surrey County Council in 2019.
- At a separate hearing on Friday 16 April at the High Court of Justice, it was confirmed that the scope of UKOG’s interim injunction has been scaled back and that another four rebels arrested at Horse Hill, who had their criminal cases dropped, will not be prosecuted under the injunction nor pursued for costs.