Three men who participated in protests against Cuadrilla at a Lancashire fracking site are being jailed in the U.K. The demonstrators participated in a July 2017 push back that lasted approximately four days. Simon Blevins, 26, and Richard Roberts, 36, received 16-month sentences, while Rich Loizou, 31, will be serving a 15-month sentence. These rulings follow the 12-month sentence doled out to Julian Brock, 47, who pleaded guilty in an earlier hearing and earned an 18-month suspension to his imprisonment. The men are said to be the first environmental protesters in the U.K. to face jail time in 86 years.
Blevins, Roberts and Loizou stepped down voluntarily from the protest for various reasons including work and fatigue. Despite this, Judge Robert Latham of the Preston Crown Court prescribed the Frack Free Four sentences from one to two years after they were convicted of being a public nuisance by a jury in August. The judge insisted that the demonstration “caused costs and disruption” to the U.K. shale gas company Cuadrilla Resources and added, “their other victims were the many members of public who were nothing to do with Cuadrilla,” according to the BBC.
The four men blocked the entry of a convoy headed into the Lancashire site by climbing on top of the truck, which was transporting drilling equipment. The protest lasted just under 100 hours and was aided by supporters who supplied the quartet with food, water and blankets.
I’m speechless that four comrades have been sent to jail for an anti-fracking protest at Preston New Road in July 2017. They stood on top of the fracking trucks for 3 days waving flags and banners. This is wholly disproportionate. #FrackFreeFour pic.twitter.com/UwBo9YKsAw
— Robbie Gillett (@RobbieGillett) September 26, 2018
“As the world’s leading scientists are about to issue their latest warning on the existential threat fossil fuels pose to our living world, these Lancashire protesters deserve our gratitude, not a prison term,” Executive Director of Greenpeace U.K. John Sauven said in an online statement.
Still, the judge maintained that the four “provide a risk of re-offending.” He added, “Each of them remains motivated by unswerving confidence that they are right. Even at their trial they felt justified by their actions.” A report by The Guardian determined that the men are probably the first environmental activists in 86 years to be reprimanded with jail time. In 1932, a mass trespass in Derbyshire saw five men imprisoned over a “right to roam” protest on private land.
Still, the group is not dissuaded from its mission. “Some may view us as victims, but we refuse to be victimized by this,” Blevins said in a statement to Climate Home News. “The real victims will be future generations suffering preventable disasters caused by climate change. Our friends and fellow campaigners outside will continue to fight for a ban on fracking and for a just transition to a renewable and democratically owned energy system.”
The Cuadrilla company, which has just been accorded a license to open a second well at the New Preston Road site in Lancashire, has been met with a high volume of protesters. More than 300 people have been arrested by police at the fracking pad since January 2017.
While fracking is banned or suspended in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the U.K. government has administered Cuadrilla the drilling permits needed for its operations in England. Despite the company’s payments to Lancaster residents in the area and the jailing of the Frack Free Four, it seems that the high-profile dissent over the Preston New Road fracking site is still gaining momentum.
Images via Zbynek Burival and Shutterstock