THE first trial relating to anti-fracking protests has taken place at York Magistrates’ Court.

On Monday, two protesters were found guilty of obstructing the highway at Kirby Misperton when they climbed up a makeshift tower in the road last year.

The incident happened on Sunday, October 15. At about 6.40pm, a group of protesters brought a three-sided tower into the road near the site entrance. Two people - Julia Collings, 39, and Ronald John Holloran, 51 - climbed on top of it and stayed there overnight.

The pair refused to come down the following morning, and a specialist police team were called in to remove the tower.

The two were arrested at 5.40pm on Monday. Their action had prevented eight lorries from entering the site.

Both defendants, of the anti-frackers’ camp near Kirby Misperton, denied the charge, claiming that their actions were reasonable and were justified by the effect they believe fracking will have on the environment.

But district judge Adrian Lower said: “In exercising your rights (to protest) you overstepped the line because you went too far.”

He gave each a six-month conditional discharge and ordered each to pay £200 prosecution costs and a £20 statutory surcharge.

Collings, who has a doctorate in treatment of toxic water wastes and who used to work in environmental management, said: “I would do it again. I am prepared to physically stand up for what I know to be right and what will one day be seen to be right.”

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police, said: “Police officers have been facilitating safe and peaceful protest for many months at Kirby Misperton. However, when the balance tips from peaceful protest to acts that go beyond what is reasonable, the public would rightly expect us to take action.”

On Thursday, in a separate matter, a protester was sentenced for bringing a knife to court. Christopher Stuart Wilson, 56, from land near Kirby Misperton, pleaded guilty to possessing an “offensive weapon”, a lock knife, at York Magistrates’ Court on December 21.

He was sentenced to a community order, requiring him to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work within the next 12 months. He must pay prosecution costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of £85, and he was also fined £100 for offending while on a conditional discharge, imposed by Blackpool Magistrates’ Court, for obstructing the highway at another fracking site.

A spokesperson for the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp said Wilson “always carries a knife for practical purposes living on a protection camp. On the day of the offence he left to attend court, forgetting he had the knife in his pocket, and on arrival immediately presented it to the security guards, who then notified the police. Bringing this small slip of the mind to trial has been a bizarre use of public resources.”