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'Folk hero' Salford anti-fracking protesters given unconditional bail

Posted by Editor on 5th December 2013 at 06:21 PM
'Folk hero' Salford anti-fracking protesters given unconditional bail

By and Tom Rodgers

Three anti-fracking protesters who appeared in court today, Thursday 5 December, were granted unconditional bail by magistrates.

A woman and two men, age 42 and 47, appeared at Manchester Magistrates court this morning on a charge of obstructing the highway.

They were arrested by Greater Manchester at Barton Moss on Wednesday 27 November, as energy firm IGas tried to deliver test drilling equipment to their site on Barton Moss Road.

During the operation police were accused of over-zealous tactics to arrest the protestors - or protectors, as they prefer to be known - including the use of controversial 'pain compliance' techniques, caught on camera by reporters.

Video and DVD footage of the arrests has been made available to the court from witnesses at Barton Moss.

The court heard that their original bail conditions, described as "excessive" by lawyers representing them, stipulated that they could not enter a site comprising of 500 metres either side of the A57 Liverpool Road.

"That was one of the reasons we argued against the charges under Article 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights," lawyer Simon Pook told today.

Article 10 describes the right to freedom of expression, while Article 11 lays out the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, or peaceful protest.

Pook, of Robert Lizar Solicitors in Manchester is an expert in protest law and defended the protesters alongside barrister Richard Bridgen in a pro bono (free of charge) defence.

Police argued in court that lifting the original bail conditions would make the protesters - or protectors as they prefer to be known - "folk heroes".

Simon Pook, representing the three protesters, said that Bail Act did not allow for conditions to impose restrictions on that basis. "There has to be reasonable justification," he said.

"I would hope post-Hillsborough that the normal scrutiny will be applied to statements from police," he added.

The court also heard that evidence taken from legal observers at the site was "miles apart" from evidence presented in statements by Greater Manchester Police.

The three protectors had their bail conditions lifted entirely.

They will return to court for a pre-trial hearing on Thursday 9 January. A two-day trial is listed for Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 February.

Simon Pook confirmed to that he would "robustly defend the right to peaceful protest at Barton Moss and anywhere else in the UK".

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