An appeals court in the UK has quashed prison sentences imposed on three anti-fracking protestors, calling them “manifestly excessive”.
Last month, Simon Blevins, Richard Roberts and Rich Loizou were handed 15-16 month sentences for their role in a July 2017 blockade on a drilling site in Lancashire.
According to the Guardian, the lord chief justice Ian Burnett said: “We have concluded that an immediate custodial sentence in the case of these defendants was manifestly excessive.
“In our judgment the appropriate sentence was a community order with a significant requirement of unpaid work. But these appellants have been in custody now for two weeks, the equivalent of a six-week prison sentence. As a result, and only for that reason, we’ve concluded that the only appropriate sentence is a conditional discharge.”
Emma Norton, head of legal casework at Liberty, which made written submissions to the appeal, said: “When people break the law, they rightly expect to face fair consequences, but the disproportionate punishment of peaceful protesters betrays our values as an open society where we can stand up to power, and risks deterring people from exercising their right to dissent.”
Onshore gas company Cuadrilla started operations at the same site on Monday, in the face of fresh protests.
In a statement from Preston prison, the three appellants said: “The fracking industry threatens to industrialise our beautiful countryside. It will force famine, flooding and many other disasters on the world’s most vulnerable communities by exacerbating climate change. Fracking is beginning right now. So there has never been a more critical moment to take action. Your planet needs you.”
Cuadrilla declined to comment for this story. On Monday, CEO Francis Egan announced the company was moving into the final stage of assessing the reserves beneath the Lancashire site: “If commercially recoverable this will displace costly imported gas, with lower emissions, significant economic benefit and better security of energy supply for the UK.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the ruling. “We stand in solidarity with the activists and thank them for standing up to the further destruction of our environment by this Tory government. When Labour gets into government we will ban fracking,” he said.
On Monday, energy minister Claire Perry told Climate Home News: ““I strongly believe that gas is absolutely part of our future.” She added that fracking the country’s domestic resources was preferable to imports.
What happens in the next few months will impact the future of the Paris Agreement and the global climate
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