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Greenpeace activists at risk of prison time over BP protest

Greenpeace activists on a Transocean drilling rig.
Greenpeace activists on a Transocean drilling rig.

Five protesters have admitted their parts in the Greenpeace occupation of an oil rig in the Cromarty Firth last month.

The Paul B Loyd Jr platform was preparing to sail to one of BP’s North Sea oil fields.

But the Transocean-owned vessel’s journey was temporarily halted when activists from the environmental group chained themselves to the rig from June 9 to June 13, causing a major police operation to remove them from the platform.

Tain Sheriff Court heard yesterday that “a break-down in communication over who would be safeguarding the rig” led to more protesters taking advantage of a lack of security and protection to board the structure once again on June 14.

Another full-scale operation had to be launched to remove more Greenpeace members for a second time.

Sheriff Chris Dickson was told that the cost to TransOcean was $135,000 (about £110,000) a day and the entire police operation ran up a bill of £140,000.

Three of the 11 activists charged had been excused from attending but the rest appeared in court yesterday.

Joanne Paterson, 53, of Munlochy, 52-year-old Andrew McParland, from Epsom in Surrey, and 39-year-old Meena Rajput, from London, all appeared in court and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

Peter Chan, 50, of Reading, and 35-year-old Thomas Johnstone, of Rhos on Sea in Wales, also admitted a similar charge through solicitor Jim Bready.

The last two did not appear and sentence was deferred until September 9 for background reports on all of them.

Chan and Johnstone were ordered to appear personally.

Sheriff Dickson indicated that he was considering all options – including prison – for the disruption caused.

The charge against them read that they boarded an oil platform without permission or lawful authority, refused to leave; attached themselves to said platform by tethers or chains, placed themselves and others in potential danger and prevented persons going about their business, all between June 9 and 14.

Fiscal depute Roderick Urquhart told the court that most of the rig’s 99 crew were confined to their quarters for the duration of the occupation because the master of the vessel did not deem it a safe situation.

Mr Urquhart added that the police also felt it was “a life-threatening situation”.
He said: “The platform was in the process of raising anchors which were swinging loosely.

“A helicopter, rope access experts, a diving unit, police and marine teams, vessels, safety baskets, cranes, cutting equipment all had to be deployed,” Mr Urquhart said.

The not guilty pleas of six others were accepted by Mr Urquhart.

They were Christopher James Till, 37, from London; Paula Radley, 31, of Hartfield in Herts, Leanne Kitchin, 42, and Darren Payne, 50, both of Paignton; Aligi Fois, 33, from London, and Paul Morozzo, 52, from Hebden Bridge.

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