Not Guilty: Reflections from Pont Valley Trial

Last week, 6 defendants from the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley were acquitted at Teeside Magistrates Court for direct action taken at the new opencast coal site, officially known as the Bradley site, in County
Durham. After a three day long trial all charges of aggrevated trespass were dropped by District Judge Helen Cousins. The judge was not satisfied with the prosecutions argument that the actions taken by Banks
Mining Group were lawful due to the defence’s evidence of a population of the protected species of great crested newt on the site. Hence Bank’s may have broken the Wildlife and Countryside Act by starting work at the Bradley site.

This is a statement from the defendants detailing their reflections on the court proceedings:

Although we, the defendants, and all those that have been working to protect the valley are pleased with the results; it comes as too little too late. The mining company began preparatory work as soon as the
eviction of the Protection Camp back in April. The top layer of soil has virtually all been stripped and the pond, where the great crested newt was discovered, has been destroyed along with all the wildlife that
inhabited it. And the greatest concern, the actual extraction and then burning of coal, is still yet to come. If anything this court process has only further demonstrated the inefficiency of the law and the authorities who should be upholding it. If people’s and communities’ concerns regarding climate change, health, and protected species were actually listened to and put before the profit driven interests of companies; the situation now would be very different. People would have not felt the need to get arrested since they would have been listened to in the first place.

In a number of ways there is a huge sense of irony to the verdict. The law has stood for the protection of a protected species. Yet this protection fails to extend to the local and wider ecosystem that all, including those protected species, rely upon. It is a complete contradiction to allow fossil fuel extraction to continue whilst
attempting to safeguard rare and endangered species. Climate change is, and will continue to, disrupt ecosystems to the point of mass extinctions.

This prescribed macho behaviour of patriarchal society seems to have infected all corners to the point that we humans are so blinded by our faith in our abilities to harness and conqueor nature that we fail to see we are also killing ourselves in the process. Huge holes are blown into the earth’s surface to extract minerals and us “consumers” in the UK continue to consume large proportions of the world’s resources without the ability to understand (or just don’t care) the repercussions that we are causing. The planet is not a bottomless pit of resources yet it is treated as one.

The law is short sighted. We can protect a certain species, however inefficiently, at the point of extraction. But this is only the starting point to a chain of destruction that is caused by fossil fuel extraction. And if we can’t even stop it at the beginning, when it should have been stopped for a number of reasons, how will the knock on effects ever be curbed or taken seriously.


Photo: Campaign to Protect Pont Valley