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On Friday Week 2, President Laura Clayson appeared at Manchester Crown Court, as Sarah McGowan appealed her conviction for an action which herself and Clayson were arrested for on January 7 2014. Clayson’s application to appeal was not processed in time for it to be heard in the same court hearing. Due to a similar appeal being considered by the High Court in July, the Judge chose to the adjourn the hearing until after the high court decision.
On January 7th 2014, Clayson and another Lancaster resident, Sarah McGowan, locked themselves to a concrete barrel inside a car in order to obstruct access to a fracking site on Barton Moss Road, Manchester. After being asked by police officers to move from the car, the pair refused. They were then cut from the car, and arrested to be charged with obstruction of a public highway.
These convictions were assessed during a hearing in February 2014, and the judge ruled that this was an incorrect arrest because the road was not classed as a public highway. The charge was then subsequently changed to the obstruction of an officer in the execution of their duty, and Clayson was found guilty in July 2014.
Due to a similar appeal taking place in High Court in July the appeal was adjourned. 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.
Speaking to SCAN the LUSU President explained that the pair had appealed because the officers who arrested her and others on the day “weren’t acting within the rule of law because they only justified why they arrested us after they had done it”. In light of new evidence, which meant that some of the protesters were not found guilty for similar charges, Clayson and McGowan have decided to appeal their guilty conviction.
Clayson said that the protesters “took this action in order to support the local community’s struggle against the unconventional fossil fuel industry”, but on the day of her arrest she feels that the police were not working towards “[protecting] of the citizens in those communities” as she only felt they acted in the interests of protecting “capital and big-business”.
After the case was adjourned Clayson spoke of her motivations for action against the fossil fuel industry: “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”.
Her co-defendant, Ms McGowan shared these sentiments. “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.”
McGowan will be back in Court on August 7th. It is expected that both defendants’ cases will be linked up by this time.