Balcombe: Protestors To Go On Trial

The first of 12 court trials against anti-fracking protesters will begin next month.


(Those in court do not necessarily include the people in this picture)

A district judge sitting at Crawley Magistrates' Court dealt with more than 60 defendants during a pre-trial review hearing to fix as many trials as possible.

The protesters will all stand trial for offences allegedly committed outside the Cuadrilla exploratory drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex, between July 26 and September 20 this year.

None of the defendants were required to attend court although a handful of protesters turned up with banners and sat outside the building.

Defendants include Natalie Hynde, 30, daughter of Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, and Balcombe poet Simon Welsh, although neither were in court.

Hynde, from St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, is charged with trespassing on railway property on August 18 and will face trial at Brighton Magistrates' Court on December 18.

She is also charged with attempting to stop workers from carrying out their jobs under section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act but the matter was adjourned until October 16.

Two youths, aged 15 and 17, who cannot be named for legal reasons, will be the first to stand trial on November 6, charged with stopping workers from carrying out their jobs under section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act.

All the other trials will begin in the new year.

Eleven protesters will stand trial at Brighton Magistrates' Court on January 7.

Michael Atkins, 37, from Westbury, Wiltshire, Frances Crack, 31, from Cardiff, Paul Deacon, 50, from Worthing, West Sussex, Samantha Duncan, 30, and Richard Millar, 30, both from Brighton, Ian Freeston, 52, Ezra Lynch, 31, and Mark Mansbridge, 51, all from Lewes, East Sussex, Justine Preece, 44, from Pontypridd, Wales, and Marcin Swiercz, 35, and Nancy Walker, 25, both from London, are all charged with obstructing a highway on July 26.

Atkins is also charged with assaulting a police officer on the same day.

The defendants are alleged to have pulled a log in front of the entrance of the Cuadrilla drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex, which they sat on or around, blocking the way.

Atkins is accused of throwing a cup of tea over a police officer as she tried to remove the protesters from the log, the court was told.

Others facing trial at Brighton Magistrates' Court in January in relation to offences committed outside the Cuadrilla site are Rhonda Mathew, 61, Adriano Merola, 23, from Brighton, Keyon Bayandor, 25, from Bristol, Timothy Harris, 29, from Crewkerne, Somerset, Zachay Hewitt, 22, from Bexhill, East Sussex, Kaity Squires, 19, from Portsmouth, Sarah Cox, 35, from Lewes, Aaron Bell, 26, of no fixed address, and Tony Jones, 24, from London.

Nicholas Ward, 51, from Cambridge, pleaded not guilty to obstructing a highway and criminal damage and will be tried at Horsham Magistrates' Court on January 2.

A further 34 defendants, who are alleged to have committed offences including failing to comply with section 14 of the Public Order Act, obstructing a highway and assaulting a police officer, had their cases adjourned for a pre-trial review on October 16.

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