Iain Hilton and Sonny Khan were charged under Section 4a(1) & (5) of the 1986 Public Order Act for allegedly causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress against employees of Joseph Metcalfe Horticultural Ltd and AW Jenkinson Forest Products Ltd for their part in a peaceful protest on Thursday 15th April 2010. Today, at Salford Magistrates Court they were found `not guilty'.
Sonny Khan was alleged to have climbed on top of a JCB digger to prevent it
loading peat into a delivery lorry. Iain Hilton was accused of climbing on
top of the same lorry to prevent it leaving the site and delivering peat
extracted from Chat Moss.
The two defendants from the groups Manchester Climate Action and Earth
First! North West were protesting against the environmental impacts of
peat extraction – which causes 3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year
in the UK according to Natural England – the equivalent to the average
emissions of 350,000 households. Back in April the Salford Star interviewed Iain live during the protest (click here).
"They were supporting the anti peat extraction campaign that our group was running and while the charge amounts aggravated trespass, it was nothing like that at all" said Jackie Anderson from Save Our North West Green Belt before the hearing.
"They behaved in a peaceful manner" she added "Their aims were clear, to have a peaceful protest and to stop work at the plant for the day. So to bring a case like this against them is completely inappropriate. And it's against all rights for peaceful protest which they should be allowed to do in Salford."
The Save Our North West Green Belt campaign is supported by Salford Green Party, the Independents on Salford Council, and Friends of the Earth. The campaign to end peat extraction on Chat Moss is also supported by The Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Natural England.
There are currently three planning applications to continue peat extraction at Chat Moss awaiting permission from Salford Council, and the date for getting objections in has been extended, so there is still time. The hearing is on 9th August.
Meanwhile there are also two planning applications for peat extraction on the Moss waiting to go before Wigan Council and campaigners are urging people to object to these too.