Protesters walk free after mass trespass at gas plant

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A group of climate change protesters who occupied one of the UK’s new gas-fired power stations for seven days have avoided jail.

Twelve women and nine men aged 23 to 46 admitted aggravated trespass at the EDF Energy West Burton power plant in Nottinghamshire last October.

They had been warned that all sentencing options were open, but at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court district judge Leo Pyle told them custodial sentences would not be imposed, prompting the defendants, some with previous convictions, to cheer.

The campaigners from the No Dash for Gas group had arrived in vans at the site in the early hours of October 29 last year.

Equipped with climbing equipment and supplies they broke through a hole in the security fence.

They had planned the demonstration for around 10 months, and the action saw 16 activists occupy the flues of two of the chimneys at the site. While up there, they rigged a rope between the two chimneys and operated a supply line.

They all handed themselves in to police at various points during and after the week-long protest.

Prosecutor Colette Moore told the court: “They were all detained quite peacefully, quite amicably.”

The group said they were protesting against moves to build new gas-fired power stations, claiming they would leave the UK dependent on a polluting and increasingly expensive fossil fuel.

Five were given an 18-month conditional discharge: Kristina Goodwin-Jones, 26, and Sophia Coles-Riley, 25, both from Leeds; Rachael Thomson, 32, and Alison Cegielka, 27, both from Manchester; and 26-year-old Claudia Comberti from Oxford. They were also ordered to pay costs of £85 and a £15 victim surcharge.

Alexander George, 32, and Graham Thompson, 39, both from London; Daniel Chivers, 34, from Leeds; Daniel Quiggan, 29, of Bristol; Thomas Spencer, 27, from Manchester; Paul Morozzo, 46, of Wadsworth, West Yorkshire; and Hannah Lewis, 29, of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, were all given community orders for 12 months and told to carry out 200 hours unpaid work.

Danielle Paffard, 25; Lawrence Carter, 28; Ewa Jasiewicz, 35; Hannah Davey, aged 34, all from London; Aneaka Kellay, 27; and Alison Garrigan, 26, both from Manchester; 33-year-old Claire Fauset from Leeds; David Shakespeare, 27, from Oxford and Alistair Cannell, 23, from Brighton were all given community orders for 12 months and told to carry out 150 hours unpaid work.

They were all told to pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £60.

The judge said the “mass act of aggravated trespass” had resulted in the loss of around £340,000 in labour after 655 workers were turned away and caused delays in finishing the site that cost around £5m.