EIGHT environmental activists arrested during protests at a controversial opencast coal mine have been issued with fines and restraining orders. 

District Judge Kristina Harrison returned guilty verdicts against the defendants at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday morning. 

The charges relate to a series of demonstrations staged at the Bradley site at Dipton, near Consett, earlier in the year. 

Four protestors arrested at opencast site between Leadgate and Dipton

The offences were committed in May and June as The Banks Group was preparing start work on the site.

The Northern Echo: SITE: Workers carrying out preparatory work at the entrance to the proposed opencast mine at the Bradley site, between Dipton and Leadgate

SITE: Workers carrying out preparatory work at the entrance to the proposed opencast mine at the Bradley site, between Dipton and Leadgate.

Judge Harrison said: “The defendants are people with strongly held beliefs and there is no doubt they are passionate about their beliefs. 

“They wanted to prevent the creation of an opencast coal site.”

The judge said the protestors were motivated by the belief the burning of fossil fuels was adding to climate change and global warming.

All eight had denied the charges during a two day trial at the court last month. 

The judge said that strongly held beliefs were not relevant in a court of law and cited the prosecution of pitmen in colliery communities during the miners’ strike.

She said there were times during the hearing when she allowed herself a wry smile.

Judge Harrison said: “It was not so long ago, in the mid-80s, that others held strong beliefs. “They were the Durham miners and they were protesting against the closure of mines.

“All the defendants are too young to remember that era.”

Six defendants were found guilty of wilful obstruction of highway and given fines of varying amounts based on their ability to pay.

The Northern Echo:

DIRECT ACTION: The defendants were part of a wider group of activitists at Dipton  

Robyn Clogg, 31, of Hedley Terrace, Stanley, £525. Thomas Davison, 29, of Douglas Terrace, Dipton, and Marta Gumkowska, 32, of Fenham Road, Newcastle, £180.

Nathan White, 38, of Dunholme Road, Fenham, £225. Thomas Bradley, 37, of Audley Road, Newcastle, £1,225.

Andrea Brock, 32, Rose Hill Terrace, Brighton, £988, as well as a further £395 fine for committing the act while she was the subject of a conditional discharge for a previous act of aggravated trespass at a coalmine in South Wales.

Two defendants were convicted of resisting a constable in the execution of duty.

Indigo Rumbelow, 34, of Penclwdd Road, Penclwdd, Swansea, was fined £180 and Timothy Cutler, 24, of Vineries Close, Sipsom, West Drayton, was fined £675.

All eight were ordered to pay £400 each in costs and given restraining orders banning them from entering the Bradley site or preventing anyone else from doing so.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, said: “We remain grateful to Durham Police for their professionalism in the way that they dealt with these protests, and will continue to progress work at our Bradley site in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible way possible.”

In August, District Judge Helen Cousins acquitted eight defendants charged with aggravated trespass. 

The Banks Groups is the subject of private prosecution for environmental crime listed at Peterlee Magistrates Court on December 12.

Dipton opencast site opponents win right to make their case in court

The protestors have also secured a High Court hearing for a judicial review against the Government’s decision not to intervene in the creation of the opencast coalmine.