Anti-fracking activists to challenge prison sentences at Court of Appeal

Senior judges will hear an appeal against the jail terms handed to three fracking protesters for causing a public nuisance.

Soil scientist Simon Blevins, 26, from Sheffield, and teacher Richard Roberts, 36, of London, were both jailed for 16 months, while piano restorer Rich Loizou, 31, from Devon, was given 15 months.

They climbed on to lorries outside energy firm Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire, in a protest last July which lasted almost 100 hours.

Fracking protest court case
Simon Blevins (Lancashire Constabulary/PA)

The three activists were jailed in September after being convicted of public nuisance following a trial at Preston Crown Court.

They will challenge their sentences before three judges at the Court of Appeal in London on Wednesday.

Supporters said they will gather outside the court for a “silent demonstration” before the hearing.

Fracking protest court case
Richard Roberts (Lancashire Constabulary/PA)

At the sentencing on September 26, Judge Robert Latham said he could not suspend the jail terms despite accepting the impact of incarceration and the good they did in the community.

He told Preston Crown Court: “I do find they provide a risk of reoffending.

“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.”

Fracking protest court case
Rich Loizou (Lancashire Constabulary/PA)

A fourth defendant, Julian Brock, 47, from Torquay, was sentenced to 12 months in custody, suspended for 18 months, after he admitted public nuisance.

Mr Brock is not challenging his sentence.

Last week Cuadrilla was given the go-ahead to start work at the site following a failed High Court bid by campaigners to block fracking due to safety concerns.

The trio’s appeal will be heard by Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and two other leading judges.

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