An appellate criminal court vacated custodial sentences imposed on anti-fracking protesters, concluding that direct action protests are covered by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and that the protesters should receive non-custodial sentences because they showed remorse.
In January 2017 the British Oil and Gas Authority granted an oil and gas exploration and production company a license to explore for shale gas by fracking. In July 2017 defendants climbed on top of trucks carrying drilling equipment, causing the road to be blocked for 11 hours. Defendants were convicted of public nuisance, and the judge determined that their conduct crossed the "custody threshold" justifying a sentence of detention. Defendants appealed their sentences. The appellate court rejected the argument that any offense committed in the source of protesting, as a matter of domestic and ECHR law, should not receive a custodial sentence in the absence of violence against the person. However, the appellate court concluded that direct action falls within the scope of article 10 and 11 of the ECHR, which protect freedom of speech and association, and determined that because defendants expressed remorse for the disruption they caused, they should not have been subject to custodial sentences.