Open letter from UK academics: The harsh sentencing of anti-fracking campaigners sets a dangerous precedent

[This letter was originally titled ‘Open letter from University of Sussex academics: The harsh sentencing of anti-fracking campaigners sets a dangerous precedent’. Although signers from other organisations have always been welcome, given the overwhelming support, we have officially opened it up to academics from across the country (and international allies) who wish to express their concern. The full letter including the list of signatories can be found here.]

We the undersigned are writing to express our growing concern about the shrinking space for communities and environmental defenders to engage in civil opposition to fracking developments in the UK.

This week three non-violent campaigners opposing fracking were jailed for 15 to 16 months simply for ‘causing a public nuisance’ and for not expressing regret. Although others have received jail sentences in more recent times, this is the first time since 1932 that environmental defenders have been imprisoned for such long periods of time for staging a protest in the UK. It is also the first time ever that activists have been jailed for anti-fracking actions.

With fracking companies increasingly granted civil injunctions to prevent protest, the scope of protest is becoming more and more restricted, representing a threat to fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Fracking is controversial in the UK. According to government surveys conducted in 2017, only 16% of people support fracking development. Given the grave environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing and growing concerns about climate change, this is not surprising.

The ruling sets a worrying precedent, curtailing opportunities for the kind of public protests that have historically been effective in instituting the legal and policy changes that defend our environment for our future generations. We need more, not less, space for action to confront unsustainable industrial practices that harm our communities and perpetuate our reliance on fossil fuels.

We oppose this absurdly harsh sentence and join calls for an inquiry into the declining space for civil society protest that it represents.

More information is available at the supporters’ web site at http://frackfreefoursupporters.org/

RECENT MEDIA COVERAGE

The Independent UK:
Anti-fracking activists jailed for ‘causing a public nuisance’ during four-day protest https://ind.pn/2OAa18F

Fracking protesters’ ‘absurdly harsh’ jail sentences sparks calls for judicial review backed by hundreds of scientists https://ind.pn/2OylGEY

The Guardian:
Four anti-fracking activists face prison over protest http://bit.ly/2Ox9pQQ

You can sign the letter here: 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScmXGgV93AycjcfbWmWBQ_7eYxbI69n5PIQhM_0B9kF1qMSaA/viewform

Featured image: geography.org.uk

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