From Manchester Evening News:
An anti-fracking protester convicted of obstructing police after chaining his neck to a bus has had his conviction dramatically quashed.
An appeal panel ruled Greater Manchester Police got the law wrong when they arrested activist Garry Henesy, 35, outside Barton Moss, Eccles a week before Christmas.
Mr Henesy had attached himself by the neck to a door handle inside an orange single-decker parked outside the entrance of the Barton Moss Road site in protest at energy company IGas’ test drilling for shale gas, and refused to release himself when officers entered the vehicle.
Police arrested Mr Henesy on the basis that his refusal to unlock himself meant he was obstructing their efforts to safely move the bus – which officers believed was ‘obstructing a highway’. Mr Henesy was later charged and convicted in his absence.
However, it later emerged that Barton Moss Road is actually a private road, which means police had no duty to move the bus on. A Manchester Crown Court appeal of conviction heard the inspector tasked with moving the bus on had been given incorrect legal advice.
Richard Brigden, defending Mr Henesy, said: “There’s no duty in law to remove an obstruction, under the Highways Act, on a private road. Would you not think it an absolute farce for an officer to get the law wrong, and you then to be charged with obstructing him, because you ignored his erroneous order?”
Ruling there was ‘no case to answer’ and quashing the conviction, Recorder Brian Cummmings QC said: “The whole police approach was based on the belief that the road in question was a highway – unfortunately, from the point view of the police, it has now been established that Barton Moss Road, being a private road, was not and is not a highway.”
Mr Henesy, from Brighton, was one of over thirty people protesting on and around the bus – including others on the roof and chained to the underside.
Speaking after the case, he said: “I knew the police were out of their jurisdiction, and didn’t really feel the need to acknowledge them when they came onto the bus, because I believed what we were doing was right.
Fracking is very dangerous for the environment, and this case exposes how police are being used in protecting this industry.”
Greater Manchester Police declined to comment when approached by Manchester Evening News.