Call for investigation into judge who jailed Sheffield man over fracking protest

An MP has called for an investigation into whether the judge who jailed three anti-fracking protesters last month –including a man from Sheffield – followed an official code of conduct.

Gordon Marsden, Blackpool South MP, has asked three parliamentary questions about the judge who sentenced University of Sheffield researcher Simon Roscoe-Blevins and fellow campaigners Richard Roberts and Richard Loizou over a protest in Lancashire last year.

Simon Blevins (Pic: Frack Free Four)

Simon Blevins (Pic: Frack Free Four)

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He tabled his questions after it emerged that Judge Robert Altham’s sister and parents are directors of a company, J.C Altham & Sons, which provides supplies to the offshore oil and gas industries.

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The judge’s sister Jane Watson, whose husband is South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable, Stephen Watson, signed an open letter to Lancashire County Council in 2015 supporting firm Cuadrilla’s fracking proposals in Lancashire.

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Blevins, of Andover Street, Burngreave and Roberts were each jailed for 16 months and Loizou was sentenced to 15 months after they were found guilty of causing a public nuisance when they climbed onto a lorry to prevent a convoy delivering drilling equipment to the fracking site.

A four campaigner, Julian Brock, 47, from Torquay, was sentenced to 12 months in custody, suspended for 18 months, after pleading guilty.

The disruption at energy firm Cuadrilla's base in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire, in July 2017, lasted just short of 100 hours, with Blevin and his fellow campaigners refusing to come down. 

Mr Marsden asked the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, ‘if he will undertake an investigation into compliance with the judicial code of conduct’ in relation to the trial.

He also asked whether the judge had sought advice from the Ministry of Justice about the requirements of the code of conduct on his family connections.

Mr Marsden has asked if Judge Altham had sought advice on the requirements of the Judicial Code of Conduct in relation to family connections.