A Sheffield man has been jailed today for ‘lorry surfing’ during a fracking protest.
Soil scientist Simon Blevins, aged 26, of Andover Street, Burngreave, was found guilty of causing a public nuisance after he and fellow protesters climbed onto lorries outside a shale gas fracking site in Lancashire to prevent a convoy delivering drilling equipment.
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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 the campaigners refusing to come down.
Protesters prevented the lorries moving onto the fracking site for four days – costing fracking company Cuadrilla thousands of pounds and days of delays.
Mr Blevins, a University of Sheffield researcher specialising in toxicity issues in urban areas, said: “What happens here in the Fylde is the thin end of of the wedge.
“Another company is already exploring to start fracking just outside my home in Sheffield. If we let this industry take off then its toxic legacy in soil and water will affect the future of everyone in this country.
“I took action in part to protect my sister’s unborn child. It hurts that as a result of this sentence, I will now miss that baby’s birth.”
Speaking after he was jailed, his mum Rosalind Blevins, said: “Today my son went to prison. I’m proud of him for standing up to stop catastrophic climate change.
“He wasn't up there for himself, he was there for everyone, to stop catastrophic climate change. It's not just climate change like a change in the weather, it will be catastrophic.”
Whilst on the top of the lorry, Blevins and the other protesters were provided with food parcels, clothes and bedding.
Blevins and fellow protester Richard Roberts, 36, from London were both jailed for 16 months, while Rich Loizou, 31, from Devon, was jailed for 15 months.
All three were found guilty after a trial.
A fourth defendant, Julian Brock, 47, from Torquay, was sentenced to 12 months in custody, suspended for 18 months, after pleading guilty.
Sentencing at Preston Crown Court, Judge Robert Latham said: "In this case the defendants caused costs and disruption to Cuadrilla but their other victims were the many members of public who were nothing to do with Cuadrilla... and were viewed by these defendants as necessary and justified collateral damage."
He said he expressed no view on fracking which was ‘not the business of the court’.
He also pointed out though it was ‘not a frivolous topic’ and that environmental matters are to be taken seriously.
The sentences would have been ‘considerably longer’ if they have not been committed against a background of protest, he continued.
He said he felt he could not suspend the jail terms despite accepting the impact of incarceration and the good they did in the community would have.
He explained: "I do find they provide a risk of re-offending.
"Each of them remains motivated by unswerving confidence that they are right. Even at their trial they felt justified by their actions.
"Given the disruption caused in this case, only immediate custody can achieve sufficient punishment."
The defendants hugged each other and blew kisses to the public gallery before they were led from the dock.
Some supporters in the public gallery began singing what they later described as a ‘native tribal song of power’ as the trio began their sentences.