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Freed: The protesters were out of prison within hours of the ruling being made.

Anti-fracking protesters who were jailed for blocking access to a fracking site have been freed after the court of appeal quashed their “manifestly excessive” sentences – and now the focus must move onto the judge who passed those sentences.

Simon Blevins, 26, and Richard Roberts, 36, were imprisoned for 16 months, while Rich Loizou, 31, recevied a 15-month sentence after being convicted of causing a public nuisance with a protest outside the Preston New Road site near Blackpool, Lancashire.

But on Wednesday afternoon the court of appeal ruled their sentences were inappropriate and they should be freed immediately.

What does this decision say about the judge who passed the original sentences – Robert Altham?

According to the Mirror, the judge’s family business, J.C. Altham and Sons, is believed to be part of the supply chain for energy giant Centrica, which has invested tens of millions of pounds in fracking.

If this is true, then Judge Altham had an interest in the matter and should not have had anything to do with it; the fact that he presided over the case would be a perversion of the course of justice.

And moves have already been made to secure an investigation.

The decision to quash the original sentence and impose community orders instead has been welcomed by the leaders of political parties other than the Conservatives, who are allowing fracking to take place in Lancashire:

Shadow cabinet minister Rebecca Long-Bailey has released a video going further:

And the Green Party’s MP, Caroline Lucas, made the point that the imprisoned men had been carrying out a peaceful protest and their sentences were an appalling misuse of power:

This story is not over.

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