Dipton open cast mine protesters cleared of trespass

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Image caption,
Dozens of police and bailiffs were called to the site to remove protesters

Eight protestors have been cleared of obstructing work at an open cast mine.

The six women and two men were arrested at the Banks Group's Bradley site near Dipton, County Durham, in April.

They claimed they were trying to prevent a wildlife crime on the site having found great crested newts.

After a trial at Teesside Magistrates' Court, they were found not guilty of aggravated trespass but given restraining orders preventing them going near the site.

Facing charges were:

  • Tobias Munnion, 26, of Woodbine Road, Newcastle
  • Luka Lecoutteux, 22, of Evergreen Hill, Barnet
  • Eleanor Ransom, 21, of Common Road, Ightham, Sevenoaks
  • Sophie Pearce, 23, of Foster Street, Bristol
  • Jessica Sankey, 23, of Burnip Park Mews, London
  • Sarah Johnson, 24, of Thornhill Terrace, Sunderland
  • Sam Fawcett, 24, of Westminster Road, Bristol
  • Ruth Hayward, 44, of Fenham Road, Newcastle

Banks Group wants to extract 500,000 tonnes of coal from the site at Pont Valley.

However, dozens of police officers and bailiffs attended the site after protesters set up a camp.

Image caption,
Among the dozens of protesters at the site, one man in a wheelchair tied himself to a tree

Some were chained to engineering equipment while another was tied to a tree.

Tunnels to a depth of 8ft (2.4m) had also been dug.

The protesters said they had found great crested newts - a species classified as endangered under European law.

Speaking afterwards, Jessica Sankey said: "Our reaction is bittersweet.

"Although we are happy being acquitted, the site has still been destroyed."

Banks Group said it had carried out a number of surveys over a period of years and no newts had been found.

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