AN ENVIRONMENTAL activist who climbed a Banks drilling rig in a fracking protest, has been found guilty of aggravated trespass.
Zoe Smith, 35, of Luckwell Road, Bristol, failed to comply with a direction to leave from police, after gaining entry to the drilling site at Banks and climbing the rig which was being used to explore for shale gas.
On December 1, 2011, protesters from direct action group Rising Tide occupied the test drilling rig, operated by Cuadrilla Resources, shutting it down for 13 hours, at a cost of £75,000.
Smith, who is a student, was fined £250, ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and £750 costs, after Preston Magistrates Court heard how she attached herself to the rig.
District Judge Peter Ward said: “The defendant believes environmental crimes were committed and she also believed she was preventing a greater crime of fracking.
“I accept there are serious matters to be considered about the process of fracking.
“I am satisfied the defendant is very opposed to it and it is for that reason she invaded the site.” Two other defendants were cleared of charges of aggravated trespass as part of the same case.
Spencer Pawling, 43, of Chaplin Road, Bristol, and Emma Byron, 41, of Philip Street, Bristol, were also charged following December’s protest.
But both were formally discharged after District Judge Ward agreed with legal arguments that the offence of trespass could not be proven because the defendants were stopped by security teams before they could do any harm.
Afterwards, Smith said: “This verdict confirms my view that the regulatory authorities are hopelessly inadequate at their job and don’t have the protection of the environment as a priority.
“Companies like Cuadrilla are allowed to flout their obligations with impunity, while concerned citizens are criminalised.”