Court of Appeal frees three anti-fracking protestors from “manifestly excessive” sentences

Kirsty Brimelow QC, instructed by Nicola Hall from Robert Lizar solicitors, successfully represented three peaceful protestors who were released from prison by the Court of Appeal on 17th October after their sentences were quashed and replaced with conditional discharges. This is a landmark case in England and Wales on the right to protest.

Miss Brimelow QC relied on jurisprudence that “Rights worth having are unruly things”, and that “Demonstrations and protests are liable to be a nuisance, they are liable to be tiresome, or they are likely to be perceived as such by people who are out of sympathy for them.”  Yesterday’s case re-establishes that police and courts must treat peaceful protestors with sensitivity and proportion as protest is a requirement of any civilised democracy.

It was agreed that a ground of appeal in relation to apparent bias of the Crown Court Judge would not be argued on that day as the Judge and the prosecution had not had time to deal with the argument. As a result, this ground is being reviewed in relation to a raising a fresh appeal against convictions.

Simon Blevins, Richard Roberts, and Rich Loizou were convicted of public nuisance after trial at Preston Crown Court relating to a direct action  peaceful protest which they mounted against heavy goods vehicles delivery fracking equipment to commence fracking at a site on Preston New Road in Lancashire in July of 2017.  The three men sat on lorries outside the site for between 44 and 86 hours, preventing the lorries from moving.

Miss Brimelow QC led Richard Brigden from Garden Court North Chambers, and they were assisted by Agata Patyna from Doughty Street.  Jude Bunting was instructed by Emma Norton at Liberty who intervened in the case. Friends of the Earth also intervened as an observer in the Appeal.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, gave the ruling of the Court of Appeal stating that “an immediate custodial sentence in the case of these defendants was manifestly excessive”. The reasoned judgment is to follow.

More information on the case can be found in The Guardian and elsewhere in the media, and helpful contextual information on legal details of the case, written by Richard Brigden, can be found by clicking here.