The judge who jailed peaceful anti-fracking protesters let a paedophile walk out of court

Anti-fracking peaceful protest campaigners outside court
Emily Apple

On 26 September, judge Robert Altham sentenced three fracking protesters to 16 and 15 months imprisonment at Preston Crown Court. The men had climbed on top of lorries at the Preston New Road fracking site and stayed up there for four days.

But the same judge who imposed these jail sentences for a peaceful protest didn’t feel that prison time was appropriate for a man who had child sex abuse images. He received a suspended sentence and a curfew.

Sorry, what?

In 2016, Altham sentenced a man who pleaded guilty to owning 10,000 images. 684 of the images were in the most serious category. A further 228 were of extreme pornography depicting animal abuse.

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During sentencing, Altham stated:

When one looks at the real images, each and every one of them represents the sexual abuse and sometimes rape of living, breathing children.

Somewhere in the world there is a child who has been sexually abused or raped in order for people like you to gain some form of gratification of them…

These are not girls in their early teens. They are children under 10 – certainly in one image a child who can be no more than two or three years old.

That must make the matter more serious.

People like you, by downloading and looking at these images generate a demand and people like you by generating that demand perpetrate the abuse of little children.

For that reason you ought to be, and I hope you are, thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

But shame appeared to be enough for Altham. He imposed a 40-week sentence suspended for 12 months and gave him a 30-week curfew. In other words, the man walked out of court.

Fast forward to 2018

Indeed, shame and remorse do seem to be key factors for Altham. Sentencing the protesters, who included a soil scientist and a teacher, he stated:

I do find they provide a risk of re-offending.

Each of them remains motivated by unswerving confidence that they are right. Even at their trial they felt justified by their actions.

As they should. Writing in Huffpost, one of the defendants – Simon Roscoe Blevins – stated:

As a soil scientist I know that fracking poses a great threat to the ground beneath our feet through leaks and contamination. Soil takes thousands of years to form, but its health can be lost in an instant. We depend on healthy earth for our food and water – it is the bedrock, literally of our existence. That’s why I decided to join this protest.

He continued:

My sentencing forms part of a broader clamp down on the right to protest in the UK. The stakes are higher than ever, but all of us inside and outside the criminal justice system will be impacted by climate change. And all of us have a role to play in creating a better, more just future. I will continue to work for that.

Continuing the fight

Roscoe Blevins finished with a plea to all of us:

So I have one ask of you, which will give me hope as I sit in jail. If you share my concerns and intentions, then please find your local anti-fracking group and continue this fight.

It’s now down to all of us to take up that call, get involved, and ensure that these sentences do not act as a deterrent to people taking action.

Get Involved!

Write to the prisoners and let them know you’re thinking about them.

Support the #FrackFree4.

Support Frack Off and find out what’s happening in your area.

– And support protesters at the Preston New Road.

Featured image via Kristian Buus

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Emily Apple