Thursday, 8 December 2016

Submitting to court...

In the interest of transparency and awareness that it's the things we don't know or understand that scare us most... I am keeping as much of this situation with the court case, as public as possible. This is what I sent to the judge for him to read in advance of tomorrow's appearance in court. The court confirmed that as received before 10am on the day before the case, it will be put in front of the judge for consideration before the proceedings.

Throughout the battle to stay frack-free we have been kept from the true target (corporates and government) by what seem like 'buffers' put between us and them. Buffers like police and law courts that slow us, tie up our time, cost us and hold us back from what needs to be addressed - turning the press too to focus on the behaviour of activists rather than the behaviour of corporates and government facilitation of them.

My anger is not with the buffers - but with the system that puts them in place. WE are peaceful, concerned people dealing with very real problems to do with the health and well being of our children, our communities and the resources all life depends on to survive - air, water, food growing etc. 

The time, attention, worry and cost associated with fighting this case is wasteful and cruel and entirely unjust - whatever the clever words of Cuadrilla lawyers try to frame it as. I would not be in court if companies like Cuadrilla did not threaten the future.

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CLAIM NUMBER: A00BC373
From: Tina Rothery

My apologies if there is a specific way to present information for you but I hope this summary of reasons/evidence I will give tomorrow in court will help to know in advance. I realise on the day I may be a bit concerned and this may mean I am less clear. What follows is a few points that I believe support my stand in this case as well as statements made by a lawyer who although I cannot afford to engage him, has written in order to try to avoid us going further down this very worrying path to possible imprisonment and continued court cases.

Thank you so much for finding the time to read this and I’ll see you tomorrow. Please also note that I realise how worrying it might be for court staff as well as other court users that quite a few people will be coming to show support and friendship… I assure you that all are well-aware of how much peaceful behaviour and respect for others means to me and I am confident there will be no issues.
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My contempt is not for the courts or law but for the way I see Cuadrilla misusing our legal system; this case is clearly about punishment and making an example in order to deter opposition. Cuadrilla’s use of huge financial advantage and expertise is what has lead to my being in court and I have neither the money nor the knowledge to know how to fight this situation.

I have acted solely with the motive of protecting my young and alerting my community to the dangers I know fracking will bring. I caused no harm or damage at any time and there actually was no physical eviction as we had already left the field on the date we had clearly stated we would. The costs this case is about are purely legal fees alone as the field was fingertip searched (we filmed this) as we left.

The original court case was within days of us leaving the field and even with an adjournment and some legal help, I was out of my depth in this arena and remain confused about the outcomes.

I hope you will please consider the following points in my case:

I tried to co-operate:
During the court case, I did make an offer to pay what I felt I could afford which was £500 but this was rejected by Cuadrilla’s lawyers. I was only earning £130 per week as a waitress.

Why I am not co-operating with the demand for money now:
Because I believe that this is unfair and unjust. I also think that it is important that our legal system is not used inappropriately. Even though the previous judge advised that these costs not go against me as the single named defendant, this case is still being pursued with what feels like vindictiveness and intimidation; even though the Claimants clearly realise I will not be paying this, What were they seeking to achieve when they rejected my offer of £500? They had the injunction and the land possession so what could they possibly gain by pursuing me for payment? And I was pursued; papers were served on three occasions at public events, in different counties and on one occasion, by a man in a clearly visible stab vest. I would love to know who instructed that this happen this way and with what reasoning.

The Claimants (all backed by Cuadrilla)  are able to use financial advantage to access our legal system and misuse it as a tool to silence opposition to an industry that a community is trying to halt due to serious, founded concerns for our health and wellbeing.. To agree to engage with the demand for payment or to be bankrupted in order to avoid it, would be to acknowledge that there is justice in this process and I don’t see this as the case.

Why did I put my name forward?
Cuadrilla’s lawyers, representing them and the landowner attended the court case armed with documents with allegations about the death of a cow amongst other inaccuracies about criminal behaviour as well as a lot of images of people from our community who visited the field; My deep concern that led me to putting my name forward was based on being told that if the case went ahead without a named defendant  - it would be uncontested. I feared that lies would be told and the truth could not be defended and this could lead to further implications in the future for those people in the images that were presented to court.

This is about Contempt of Court, not the activism…
At the start of the original court case, it was the Landowner who took the primary role although he didn’t speak; Cuadrilla did not admit till later that they were behind the proceedings and it was not the Landowner who bore the costs at all. For the case before you, Cuadrilla were contacted by media and again are trying to take a back seat. They say this Contempt of Court part is nothing to do with them but clearly, I would not be in this position if it weren’t for the danger their industry poses. I did not choose to be an activist, I am fulfilling an obligation as a parent and grandparent to safeguard the future for those I’m responsible for and alerting others to the risks. IF Cuadrilla agreed not to press for these costs, I would not need to be seen as being in Contempt of Court.

I am a law-abiding person who until 2011 had not even heard of this industry and would never have imagined I would have to do the things I’ve done. I tried ALL lawful means available to oppose this industry; from signing petitions, to writing to the Queen and everything in-between. I don’t know how to do this but I do know that I cannot sit back and let this industry come into our lives and cause harm.

Having watched the behaviour of Cuadrilla over a long period now (over five years), I have found them to be untrustworthy and therefore dangerous. Their promises of exemplary processes and their claims of eagerness to act within regulations and be a good neighbour to communities, flies in the face of planning breaches, withheld information (earthquake responsibility not alerted till 6 months after) and their treatment of opposition.

The following is what was written by a lawyer on my behalf to Cuadrilla’s lawyers this week, in order to try to stop this case from escalating further and scaring others like me, who are simply trying to prevent harm:
Dear Ms Dilcock,

As you know and has already explained Ms Rothery has no means of paying the legal fees your client seeks. She is utterly unable to do so and has always been unable to do so.  The steps now being taken to seek payment have been started by your client and it would be possible for them to stop the action by confirming that they no longer seek costs from Ms Rothery and regard this matter as at an end.

Plainly the court will not want to engage in pointless further examination of matters if the claimant is no longer seeking ancient legal costs and views the matter as concluded.

Given that the purpose behind Cuadrilla’s application was to obtain an injunction against a large number of people (it was a persons unknown injunction against potentially hundreds of thousands of people) it appears oppressive to continue to pursue Ms Rothery (and Ms Rothery only) not least when it has already been confirmed to you that she has no funds and nothing whatsoever can be gained by your client. It is hard to see why this enforcement action was started by Cuadrilla (at some expense) and is continuing. In my experience this is out of line with other companies that seek injunctions against protestors. I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla. It is made all the more oppressive when they know that there is nothing to be gained.

It is not correct to suggest that this is simply a matter for the court. I have no doubt that the court would not continue to seek information if your client confirmed that they regarded the matter as closed and the debt was no longer being sought from Ms Rothery. 

I invite your client to confirm this in order to draw this matter to a conclusion.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely 

Paul Ridge

Julie Dilcock for Cuadrilla argued:

Ms Rothery was ordered to attend Court to complete a questionnaire about her financial means pursuant to CPR 71.  Ms Rothery attended Court, but refused to comply with the Court’s order to provide information.  That refusal was contempt of Court and the process by which the Court deals with such contempt is set down by CPR 71.  You will note that pursuant to CPR 71, once a debtor has failed to comply with the Court’s order the matter is in the hands of the Court.

BUT… there would be nothing to cause me to be in contempt of court if not for Cuadrilla’s impossible financial demand and the implications it has for the right to protest.

As the lawyer on my behalf replied:

I am afraid it is not quite correct to say “Ms Rothery was ordered to attend Court to complete a questionnaire about her financial means pursuant to CPR 71”. This makes it sound like the court suddenly did this and it has nothing to do with your client.

The fact is that your client triggered that process. No doubt they issued the application. Presumably they also paid a fee and may even have instructed your firm to trigger and deal with that process. It did not simply happen.

Are you able to confirm that your client did decide to instigate this process?

Cuadrilla’s lawyers continue to say this part of the process ie: my ‘contempt of court’ is nothing to do with them but that is blatantly untrue as it is ONLY because of them that I find myself here. As the conclusion to the correspondence between the lawyers makes clear:

Ms Rothery has asked me to contact you in relation to this issue. She has instructed me to clarify the basis on which this action is being taken against her.

I find your response somewhat evasive as there are only two options. First would be that the court has made a mistake and triggered this action.

Alternatively you or your client has paid a court fee and has initiated this action.

If you are unable to confirm that you or your client had anything to do with this matter I presume my client is left to inform the court that in fact this was an error and no action was every intended. If that is not the position then please confirm.

Yours sincerely

Paul Ridge

That’s everything, a bit long but I hope it helps and ensures you and I are at least in understanding at the start – regardless of how the intense pressure and worry of the day impacts my ability to communicate all this when I’m before you.


Warm regards,

Tina Rothery

8th December 2016
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