Judge Robert Altham had links to the oil and gas industry

Article submitted by Gabriel Otwerah

At a time when environmental issues are getting alarmingly acute, a judge with a conflict of interest sentenced three fracking activists to prison for public nuisance.

Some may be disconcerted to note that this is the first time environmental protesters getting jailed in the UK since 1932. It is even more alarming that the judge is reported to have family links to oil and gas companies.

Richard Loizou, Richard Roberts and Simon Roscoe Blevins

Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, Richard Roberts, 36 and Richard Loizou, 31, better known as the “Fracking Three” were sentenced to prison for an incident that occurred on July 25, 2017.

Apparently, they climbed on the roofs of the lorries to prevent them from getting to the fracking site.They reportedly refused to climb down from the lorries between hours of 45 and 84.The disruption had financial implications as it cost Cuadrilla £50,000 ($65,965). The jury at Preston Crown Court convicted the trio for causing a public nuisance.

The demonstration by the trio at a Cuadrilla site in Little Plumpton, Lancashire, did not go well with the judge whose family links to oil and gas companies were exposed subsequently.

According to reports, Judge Robert Altham who sentenced them to prison has a family business called C. Altham and Sons’ which is said to be a seasoned supplier to the offshore gas and oil industry.

C. Altham and Sons’ has Altham’s parents as company directors and his sister, Jane as the managing director. There are also reports to the effect that the company is allegedly a part of a supply chain for Centrica, which is a multinational company situated in the UK. It is also alleged that the company has invested its several million pounds in fracking.

As if Judge Altham’s involvement isn’t enough, we have got Jane Watson, his sister, who is said to be a signatory to an open letter that fiercely defends and supports fracking. The group including Altham’s and Jane’s company comprising 119 businesses supported the open letter and considered the verdict as fair. They argued that justice was done in the matter.

The incident has created an uproar among activists and academics alike. More than 1400 academics recently signed a letter and openly dubbed the conviction of the three activists as absurdly harsh.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “Ministers have changed laws, taken away homeowners’ rights and distorted the planning process to make way for the shale industry, yet it’s four peaceful protesters that get punished for climbing on a lorry.”

Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth, said: “This historic sentencing is disproportionate and harsh. Our thoughts are with these protesters who acted out of conscience to protect the planet.”
While the first two were sentenced to 16 months in prison, the third one was awarded 15 months’ imprisonment.

Understandably, the lawyers for the “Fracking Three” have decided to take the battle to the next level with an appeal to the Court of Appeal. They have also requested an expedited hearing so that the sentences could be overruled as quickly as possible.

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