POLICE used anti-union laws to prosecute anti-fracking protesters, it was revealed yesterday during a court case against the campaigners.
The 12 environmental campaigners appeared in court in Blackpool on charges relating to their blocking of the entrance to a drilling site in Lancashire, where the destructive gas drilling method is expected to start shortly.
The campaigners say that fracking — drilling deep into the Earth’s surface and pumping in a toxic mixture of chemicals, sand and water to smash shale to release gas — pollutes water supplies and damages the atmosphere.
The defendants, who include county and district councillors, chained themselves together at Cuadrilla’s drilling site in Preston New Road, near Fylde in Lancashire, on July 3.
They are charged with obstruction and have also been charged with offences under clause 241 of the Tories’ Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
The clause is headed: “Intimidation or annoyance by violence or otherwise.”
It relates to intimidating workers and their families, following them, hiding their work tools or clothing and watching their homes.
The offence carries a prison sentence of up to six months.
The 12, all of whom live near the site, appeared at Blackpool magistrates’ court where they intended to plead not guilty.
A spokeswoman for campaign group Frack Free Lancashire said: “It seems to be clutching at straws when peaceful anti-fracking protesters are being hit with trade union Act charges in addition to highway obstruction clauses.
“It smacks of desperation, in the hope that at least one charge will stick somewhere.”
Charges against a 13th protester were dropped when a police caution was accepted.