Cleared MP vows to keep up fight against fracking

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BRITAIN’S only Green MP has vowed to continue her fight to end fracking after being found not guilty of obstructing a public highway and a public order 
offence during high-profile protests.

Caroline Lucas was arrested outside energy company Cuadrilla’s exploratory oil drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex, last August.

She was among a group of protesters who had linked arms outside the site, which had become a national focal point for anti-fracking protests.

During the trial at Brighton Magistrates’ Court alongside four co-defendants, Ms Lucas, 53, said she “wanted to express solidarity” by protesting peacefully.

She was found not guilty of the two charges that she faced – wilful obstruction of a public highway and breaching an order under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.

Outside court, she said: “We are pleased that the court upheld our right to peacefully protest against fracking, but this judgment is not a victory or cause for celebration.

“We will continue to campaign to end fracking and only celebrate when our world is on the path to a clean energy future.”

Ms Lucas’s co-defendants – Josef Dobraszczyk, 22, from Bristol; Ruth Jarman, 50, from Hook, Hampshire; Sheila Menon, 42, from north-east London; and Ruth Potts, 39, from Totnes, Devon – were also cleared of both charges.

In explaining how he reached his verdicts, district judge Tim Pattinson said the prosecution had failed to satisfy him that Ms Lucas had “the requisite knowledge” about the Section 14 order being in place.

On the obstruction charge, he said he did not hear any evidence that any “actual obstruction” was caused.

The judge said there was no wrangle over the fact that all five defendants were taking part in a public assembly but the dispute centred on whether they “knowingly” failed to comply with the conditions.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “This verdict is a victory for the right to peaceful protest but more importantly for Britain’s growing movement of ordinary people opposing fracking. Caroline Lucas had the guts to stand up for what she believes in.”