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12 charged over West Sussex anti-fracking protests

Anti-fracking protesters at Balcombe, West Sussex, earlier this week. Picture: PA

Anti-fracking protesters at Balcombe, West Sussex, earlier this week. Picture: PA

  • by ANGUS HOWARTH
 

A DOZEN people, including two teenage boys, have been charged in connection with demonstrations over plans to set up a controversial test site for fracking in West Sussex, police have said.

Officers have also made two further arrest this morning at the Cuadrilla site in Balcombe, West Sussex.

Two women were detained, one for assault on police and the other under the Trade Union Labour Relations Act.

This follows 16 arrests yesterday, which resulted in the 12 being charged.

The charges came as anti-fracking campaigners gathered for a third day in the village where Cuadrilla is poised to start test drilling.

The village has become a focal point for campaigners who have highlighted fears linked to fracking - where high-pressure liquid is pumped into cracks in the rock to split shale rock and release gas.

In Balcombe, some protesters, who included a former glamour model, a “professional clown” and veteran eco-campaigners, vowed to mount a 24-hour campaign of resistance against fracking. All of those charged do not live in the village, with some coming from as far afield as Wales.

Superintendent Steve Whitton from Sussex Police said: “I have officers at the site to ensure people can demonstrate peacefully and help facilitate the rights of those to go about their lawful business - this means allowing workers to access the site.

“We are trying to carefully balance the needs of everyone and we will continue to show a proportionate response to the challenge we are facing. Our aim at Balcombe is to provide a safe and secure environment for protesters, residents and the contractors alike, to minimise disproportionate disruption to the local community and to prevent crime and disorder.

“Protesters are being asked to clear entrances to allow access to the site and where they have refused following repeated requests we have arrested them.”

All those charged have have been dealt with under Section 241 of the Trade Union Labour Relations Act for attempting to stop drivers and other workers from accessing the site:

They are: Ezra Lynch, 31, a circus employee; Samantha Duncan, 29, of Beaconsfield Villas, Brighton, and Marcin Swiercz, 35, a handyman from London, will appear before Crawley Magistrates on August 14 along with Mark Mansbridge, 51, a voluntary charity worker, of Paddock Road, Lewes; Nancy Walker, 25, of Over Street, Brighton; Richard Millar, 29, of Upper Gloucester Road, Brighton; Frances Crack, 31, a teacher, of Taffs Well, Cardiff, and Justin Preece, of Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan.

A 15-year-old boy from Rustington, West Sussex, and a A 17-year-old unemployed boy from Brighton have also been charged and will appear before Crawley Youth Court on August 6. Paul Deacon, a writer, aged 50, of Selden Lane, Worthing, West Sussex, will appear before Crawley magistrates on August 7.

In addition to being charged under the Trade Union Labour Relations Act Michael Atkins, 37, of Westbury, Wiltshire, has also been charged with assault on police and he will also appear before Crawley magistrates on August 14.

A 56-year-old man from Lewes has been cautioned. A 52-year-old man from Lewes has been given police bail until August 12 in relation to causing danger to road users and for attempting to stop drivers and other workers from accessing the site.

In yesterday’s incident it is alleged that some protesters moved a tree across the entrance to the site, blocking access, but all arrests were made peacefully, police said.

Some activists, who are concerned about the use of chemicals in fracking, described the police response as “disproportionate”.

They also called on the Government to change its policy on on-shore oil and gas exploration as they warned that oil rigs and frack sites could become widespread.

Cuadrilla said obstacles blocking the road have now been removed and delivery of equipment has resumed. It hopes to start drilling “as soon as is reasonably possible”.

The company has said it intends only to conduct exploratory drilling in a temporary operation which will not include hydraulic fracturing.

 

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