Day One 19/10/16
This saw the case outlined, in the family court room of Chester Magistrates Court with District Judge Abelson, as this is a bigger room for the defendants and also the numbers of supporters in the public gallery.
Members of Frack Free Upton set up a gazebo and information stall outside the magistrates court to help raise public awareness.
Day Two 20/10/16
Dealt mainly with the case against Cllr Matt Bryan who denied a charge of obstructing/resisting a constable in the execution of their duty. Evidence came many from PC Vincent Jones from North Wales Police force and there was also police video evidence shown.
Adrian Long from UK Evict was next in the witness stand, he gave evidence in the case of Jamie Watson,charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer. Mr Long could not identify the defendant in the court, though he scanned all faces intently , he insisted that the defendant wasn’t in the room, he also insisted that the defendant was known as ‘Psycho’, a name that the defendant has never been called in his life.
Mr Long was given 2 witness statements and asked to verify that they were his. the first one was hand written on the day of the eviction and signed/verified by him.
The second was a typed up statement dated 14th February (one month later) and although Mr Long said it was ‘similar’ to his statement, he insisted that he had not given this version, and he had never sen it before. This statement was unsigned and the court was halted to find out who had written this and if indeed these were the words of the UK Evict bailiff.
Day Three 21/10/16
A PC from Warrington had been tracked down as writing up the mysterious witness statement. In court, it appeared that going over the case in February, she had made a phone call to the bailiff which lasted a few minutes, and asked to verify a few items. She had made notes and read them back to him over the phone to confirm. Afterwards, the statement had been typed up and emailed to UK Evict to be signed, but it is now assumed that this was not passed on to be checked and signed and ended up in the evidence bundle unverified.
Bailiff Mr Long then gave evidence regarding Louise Hammond, charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer. In his questioning he claimed that Ms Hammond was cut free from a concrete barrel she was locked on to, located underneath a scaffolding tower inside the field after about 5 hours. He was shown a map of the eviction order, outlining the area to remove protesters from, and verified this, and the outline of the area. He confirmed that Ms Hammond was within these boundaries.
Police video evidence was shown which clearly showed the defendants location, outside the camp on the verge of the road, an area where the bailiffs had no jurisdiction, outside of the area they had been told to clear. She was not on the camp at all.
John Hall, charged with resisting/obstructing a constable was next. From the evidence given by PC Parry of North Wales Police, Mr Hall was initially charged with obstructing the highway ie standing on the road in Acres Lane, which is a public highway. It was only today that PC Parry saw that the charge had later been changed to obstructing a police officer (ie himself) As PC Parry’s duty was to enforce the road closure on Duttons Lane, and Mr Hall was outside of this area, it was said in court that Mr Hall couldnt have been obstructing him. It was suggested that Mr Hall had been arrested because he was annoying PC Parry. Judge Abelson asked why a dispersal notice hadnt been issued in this case, as many of these had already been issued on the day already, and it would have saved much public money and time bringing this to court
Moving on to the case against Simon John Stafford-Smith, charged with failing to comply with a section 35 direction excluding a person from an area during an incident alleged to have taken place two days after the camp eviction on January 14.
Evidence here was given by PC Brown from Blacon, and according to his account, Mr Stafford-Smith had been excluded from Duttons Lane until 16:05h on the day in question. On duty in Duttons Lane, PC Brown had spotted Mr Stafford-Smith 10 feet within his exclusion area at 16:00h, had this verified over radio at 16:02h and arrested. Much of the case depended in the timing and whether PC Brown’s watch was accurate as the matter only involved a few minutes. PC Brown stated that it would have been better to simply step out of the area (10ft) for a few more minutes, then no offence would have occourred, but he had been instructed by Inspector Stead, from Blacon, to arrest him. It was also stated that Mr Stafford-Smith was doing nothing to attract any attention, other than being 10ft into an area he had been told not to go into, 5 minutes before his exclusion time was over. When asked what Mr Stafford-Smith was doing to attract police attention, on a public highway, the answer given was that he wasn’t doing anything untoward at all, he was simply recognised as being from the camp.
Many expressed the view that this was a complete waste of public time and money to bring a case to court of a matter of 5 minutes.
Police video evidence was shown in court of Mr Stafford-Smith being arrested on the day, and on the video, the arresting officer gave the time of the arrest as 16:22h
The case against Simon Stafford-Smith was dismissed as the prosecution could give no evidence to support the offence. In fact their evidence showed the opposite.
Day Four 24/10/16
Four cases are dismissed! ……
It is discussed at the start of proceedings that the main prosecution witnesses for Miss Hammond’s case have failed to either arrive or cannot be traced so the Judge announces that if they do not emerge then her case will be tried in their absence.
First up the case of Mr Richard Burcumshaw, accused of assulting a police officer:
Inspector Robinson took the stand first to be questioned by Mr Burcumshaw (representing himself) on his charge of assulting a police officer. Mr Burcumshaw was arrested whilst walking along a concrete path that lay ajacent to the protest camp field. The Inspector appeared to be very unclear on where-abouts in the field he was at the time of Mr Burcumshaw’s arrest or if the path they were standing on was a public right of way or not. He claims that he tried to stop Mr Burcumshaw as he was concerned about his mental health but could not explain why, as the defendant did not appear drunk or irrational in his movements, only ‘determined to get somewhere’. In his first attempt to continue walking Mr Burcumshaw bumped into the Inspector’s shoulder. The Inspector moved ahead of him once more, where it is said that Mr Burcumshaw pushed the Inspector enough to make him step backwards, but caused no injury. It was at this point that they were joined by P.C Davies (the second witness in the prosecution’s case) and the Inspector made the arrest. Judge Abelson asked if the defendant had passed any other officers before he reached the spot in which he was standing, he replied yes and that he was disappointed that none of the others had attempted to stop him. The Judge also asked if it was the correct thing to do, to arrest a man that he believed to have mental health issues? The Inspector insisted that he felt had to to remove him from the area.
When questioning both officers on the visibility that afternoon, they claimed that it was still light but when further qusetioned P.C Davies said she remembered lights coming from the camp at the time, which suggested that it was dark or getting dark. Judge Abelson asked the P.C if Mr Burcumshaw had passed any other officers by the time he reached the spot where Inspector Robinson was standing, she replied that he had and that he had in fact passed her also. He then asks that if the defendant’s appearance had been of such obvious concern then why did the officers before them not stop him? The Judge commented that if Inspector Robinson had not stopped the defendant ‘would have just continued on his way’ to which P.C Davies admitted that had he not been challenged he would not have been in court that day.
Both officers admitted to discussing the incident and writing parts of it together whilst in the police van. The case for Mr Burcumshaw to be continued the following day. The court adjourned for lunch to recommence at 2:00pm.
The afternoon session saw Councillor Matt Bryan cleared of obstructing a police officer as Judge Abelson said that in the evidence the officer that had accused him of obstruction was happy to let him get off the cherry picker without being arrested, and therefore he wasn’t obstructing him. He also believed that he had a genuine concern for the safety of the protestors that remained on site.The case against Edward Cairns, failing to comply with a section 35 order (excluding a person from an area) was dismissed as these are specifically aimed at anti-social behaviour and therefore was not applicable in this instance. John Hall was charged with obstructing an officer, however, when questioned the officer concerned said he believed that he had arrested him for obstructing the highway; case dismissed. The case against Louise Hammond for obstructing a high court enforcemant officer was also dismissed after the defence lawyer questioned the prosecution witness and the officer himself admitted to the court that he was not sure if she was even in the area outlined for eviction.
Day Five 25/10/16
Final Day of the Upton Community Protection Camp trials:
First to take the stand is Mr Jamie Watson. He explains that he has experience in other campaigns, such as the Faslane Peace Camp (a protest camp that opposes the trident program in Scotland). He explains to the court that his involvement in the Upton camp was due to his concerns about the impacts that the fracking industry could have on the ‘health of the local residents and water’. When reflecting on the position that the enforcement officer (Adrian Long) claimed to find the defendant to be in on the day of the eviction, the Judge commented that it could ‘constitute an obstruction’. Mr Watson said that he did not think that his removal would pose too much of a problem. The prosecution then questioned the defendant. They asked him if he was shown/given a notice to leave, he answered that he was not aware of seeing one. No more questions.
Richard Burcumshaw takes the stand next and is given the opportunity to give his version of events. He explains that he too has supported other protest movements. When asked if he feels strongly about the fracking industry he replies ‘Yes.’ and that he was concerned about the number of schools being in such ‘close proximity’ to the (then) proposed drill site. He described the Community camp as ‘A small beacon of hope’. He said that at the time he was arrested that he was simply trying to find a spot where he would be able to see what was happening on the site as the protestors were being removed (the police had blocked all road entrances past the camp). When he found himself walking down the path where the police officers were lined up he did not wish to engage with them but to continue walking, as he was in a hurry. He felt that the challenge by the Inspector was ‘aggressive’ and that he was ‘unaware that he wasn’t meant to be there.’ He explains that he would have avoided the officers on the pathway (when he noticed they were there) had the field not been so boggy. He explains that on his first encounter with Inspector Robinson he came to a stand still but continued on when nothing appeared to be happening. The Judge describes the whole episode as a ‘non event.’ On the second time he was stopped he explains that he wanted only to get away and that any contact with the Inspector was ‘not intentional.’ The Judge comments on the fact that within a matter of seconds the Inspector had gone from ‘being concerned to arresting him for assault within seconds.’ During the questioning of the prosection Mr Burcumshaw states that the Inspector had embroidered the description of the physical attack to make him look like a ‘lout’ and to ‘justify’ the arrest. No more questions.
Lanner Davies takes the stand. Miss Davies explains that she had spent some time, on and off, living at the Upton camp and resided on many other anti-fracking camps over the last couple of years. She became involved in the movement as soon as she aware of the environmental impacts that fracking can have. She describes that she was locked on with another defendant on top of some scaffolding above the gate of the camp. She does not recall receiving a warning to leave. Prosecution states her main reason to be there was to cause an obstruction. Defence states that the intention was peaceful protest, not obstruction.
Judge begins summing up and sentencing:
He commends the protestors for the fact that there was ‘no violence’ even though ‘it was such a large operation.’ and describes it as ‘a peaceful and understated protest.’ He finds Jamie Watson guilty of obstruction but comments that he appeared ‘genuinely sincere about your views on fracking, as have all the others.’ but this did not mean that he was not guilty of obstructing an officer. In the case of Richard Burcumshaw; the Judge remarks that he was ‘wholly unimpressed with the prosecution’s evidence against you’ and that the officers went from being concerned about him to ‘arresting him within minutes’. He described his account as ‘honest and straight forward’ and that he ‘preferred his account’ to that of the police. He finds Mr Burcumshaw not guilty. He found Lanner Davies guilty as he said he believed that it was her intention to obstruct and that she had been given a warning to quit.
Jamie and Lanner were both issued with nominal £150.00 in costs and a standard 12 month conditional discharge.
We would like to thank Robert Lizar Solicitors for their legal guidance and support and all those within our community that gave their time to attend court, your support throughout has been invaluable and very much appreciated. Most of all we would like to give a huge thank you to those that remained on the camp in resistance. Well done to all!
Phil McCann, The BBC’s Political Reporter for the county of Cheshire shared these tweets about the case –
Photo album from the trial – click through the photos
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