A district judge in Brighton has thrown out the case in the first trial of an anti-fracking protester arrested in Balcombe during the summer.
District Judge Peter Crabtree invited the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to drop the case against 41-year-old Miranda Tarr.
She was arrested on Saturday 27 July and charged with wilfully obstructing the highway during a protest against fracking company Cuadrilla. She denied the charge.
The judge, sitting at Brighton Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Monday 25 November), suggested that the case be dropped after hearing the evidence of one police officer and watching a four-minute video.
PC Simon Marchant told the court that the defendant had walked in front of a lorry delivering equipment to Cuadrilla and was arrested when she sat down in the site entrance.
But after the court saw a video of her arrest, the judge questioned whether guidelines set by the CPS on prosecuting protesters had been followed.
The guidelines said that a prosecution would be more likely to be required when protests were violent and there was significant disruption to the public and businesses.
Prosecutions were less likely to be in the public interest when a protest was essentially peaceful, the suspect had a minor role and the act was committed in the heat of the moment or was minor.
The judge said that it had been “an extremely short period of time” before the defendant was arrested at the site entrance and he questioned how much disturbance she had caused.
He said: “I rather wonder, technically, whether there was an offence.
“I invite the crown to consider whether they wish to pursue the prosecution, given the nature of the guidelines and the nature of this case.”
After an adjournment, Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, said that it would not be in the public interest to continue the trial.
Shahida Begum, defending, asked for costs from central funds to be awarded to the protester.
This was the first of more than 20 trials involving 70 Balcombe anti-fracking campaigners which are due to take place at courts in Brighton, Crawley and Horsham over the next five months.
Among them is the trial of the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas, scheduled for early next year after her arrest at the protests on Monday 19 August.