Three men who took part in what’s believed to be the longest single anti-fracking protest in the UK have been sent to prison.
The packed public gallery at Preston Crown Court listened in silence as the judge sentenced Richard Roberts and Simon Blevins to 16 months and Rich Loizou to 15 months.
Women began singing as the men were led away. Outside the court, anti-fracking campaigners, some in tears, said they were devastated by the sentences. DrillOrDrop report on reaction
A fourth man, Julian Brock, who also took part in the protest was given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.
The four had climbed onto lorries delivering to Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire in July 2017 and stayed there for a total of 99.5 hours.
The three who received jail sentences are thought to be the first people to be sent to prison for taking part in a UK anti-fracking protest. The barrister for one of them said they were the first environmental campaigners in the country to be jailed since the Kinder Scout mass trespass in 1932.
Passing sentences on Mr Blevins, Mr Roberts and Mr Loizou, his Honour Judge Altham said:
“There is no real chance of rehabilitation. They continue to think that they are right.
“They present a risk of re-offending.
“It is not a case I can draw back from [a prison sentence]. I am still satisfied that the custodial sentence must be immediate.”
He said the three would serve half the sentence in custody and half on licence.
Judge Altham said the protest had caused cost and disruption to Cuadrilla. But added:
“Other victims were other members of the public who had nothing to do with Cuadrilla or fracking, who suffered significant inconvenience which must have been considered by these defendants as justifiable collateral damage.”
The judge acknowledged that fracking was a “matter of legitimate concern”. He said:
“These defendants did what they did from sincerely-held beliefs and this does mitigate the sentence.”
But he said the three had crossed the line of what was acceptable protest by persisting in their action for so long. He said:
“No cause can trump every consideration and everyone’s rights.”
Mr Loizou, 31, a teacher from Devon, Mr Blevins, 26, a soil scientist, from Sheffield, and Mr Roberts, a piano restorer from London, had denied the charge of public nuisance but had been found guilty after a seven-day trial ending on 22 August 2018.
Mr Brock, 47, from Sheffield, had pleaded guilty to the same offence at an earlier hearing.