Lancaster trio found guilty of blocking road during fracking protest

Emily Heath, Caroline Jackson and Mollie Foxall outside court.
Emily Heath, Caroline Jackson and Mollie Foxall outside court.
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A former city Mayor, a retired health manager and a university lecturer from Lancaster have been found guilty of wilfully obstructing a highway during an anti-fracking protest.

Lancaster City Coun Caroline Jackson, 63, Mollie Foxall, 71, and Dr Emily Heath, 45, fixed their legs together with two bike ‘D-locks’, and then sat down in the middle of the road outside the Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road on September 29.

They were quickly surrounded by police, who later put in a contraflow on both sides of the road, resulting in traffic tailbacks in both directions.

Prosecuting for the Crown, Malcolm Isherwood said the trio “were prepared to be arrested” for their actions, and “by not producing keys” for the locks, were being “deliberately obstructive”.

Green Party Coun Jackson, a former headteacher, of Park Road, Lancaster, said that she wished to make a protest about fracking and climate change.

Dr Heath, of Meadow Street, Lancaster, a former city councillor and part time teacher of earth sciences at Lancaster University, described how the defendants locked their ankles together with two D-locks and crossed the road in a “three legged race”, attempting to get to the entrance of the Cuadrilla site where they intended to carry out their protest.

But they said that police met them in a hatched turning area in the centre of the road, and stopped them from moving forward.

They then sat down, and officers created a “bubble” around them to protect them from traffic.

They were arrested and later charged with Section 137 of the Highways Act after a specialist police team arrived to remove the locks, around an hour later.

Mr Isherwood said: “You wanted to make a drama to get attention.

“You knew very well that you were aiming to commit an offence.”

All three women had entered not guilty pleas, but conceded they had “wanted to gain some media and government attention” and were prepared to be arrested.

They represented themselves in court, and Dr Heath spoke for them all for most of the hearing.

Ms Foxall, of Aldcliffe Hall Drive, added: “My intention was to create some media interest in the protest against fracking.

“There’s been some, but not enough.

“I think we were looking awkward and I think that’s why the police saw us crossing the road.”

Magistrates told them that they were “struck by their passion and beliefs” but ruled that they had in fact obstructed the highway and the obstruction was wilful.

Coun Jackson was fined £240, Dr Heath was fined £163 and Ms Foxall was fined £60. All three were ordered to pay £200 costs and a £30 victim surcharge each.

Dr Heath said outside court: “We have no regrets but we’re disappointed with the verdict.

“We feel that we’ve been made an example of, and we’re confused that such different judgements have been made on similar cases.

“But we feel that what we did was right.”

and ordered to pay £200 costs and a £30 victim surcharge.

Dr Heath was fined £163, and ordered to pay £200 costs and a £30 victim surcharge, and Ms Foxall was fined £60