“Today in Manchester Crown Court Sarah McGowan appealed her conviction for an action that she and Laura Clayson were arrested for on the 7th January 2014. The pair were removed by police for blockading Barton Moss Road in a bid to obstruct deliveries to IGas’ hydraulic fracturing site. Initially their charge was ‘Obstruction of a Public Highway’ but a ruling on the 12th February 2014 established that Barton Moss was in fact a private road. As a result of this ruling their charge was changed to ‘Obstruction of an Officer in the execution of their duty’. They both challenged this on the grounds that Officers could not have been obstructed in the execution of their duty in this instance if their reason for making the arrest was based on a wrongful road classification. Laura’s application to appeal wasn’t processed in time for it to be heard at the same time today.
However, after 4 hours of waiting the Judge chose to adjourn the hearing.
This was due to a similar appeal case being considered by the High Court in July. Currently there is a divergence between the Crown and Magistrates Courts on whether or not protesters were obstructing an officer in the execution of their duty. The High Court’s decision will determine whether these convictions can be upheld.
The pair hope that the High Court ruling will go in the favour of anti-fracking activists, as natural justice should stipulate that one cannot be arrested for an offence, to then have it changed by the system due to the police’s misunderstanding of the law.
Speaking from outside Court Ms McGowan spoke of her motivation to take direct action on this, “According to the World Bank,of known global fossil fuel reserves estimates of between two-thirds and four-fifths need to be left in the ground if we are to stay below 2 degrees of warming, which the scientific consensus says is the maximum amount of warming the planet can tolerate. Above this, tipping points & feedback mechanisms will kick in creating a momentum of its own.” Her co-defendant Ms Clayson echoed with similar sentiments, “hydraulic fracturing is an unviable alternative to fossil fuels. In order to display a commitment to future generations we should be making the transition to renewable energy sources, not exploring unconventional fossil fuels which only serve to line the pockets of stakeholders. Direct action is a legitimate and necessary form of protest when the state chooses to ignore scientific warnings”.
Sarah will be back in Court for the 7th August. It is expected that both defendants’ cases will be linked up by this time.
Sarah and Laura expressed gratitude and thanks to everyone who came along as Court supporters. It meant the world to them!”