NEARLY 30 anti-fracking campaigners have appeared in court over charges connected to the Kirby Misperton fracking site.

Between them, they face 45 allegations including endangering road users, assaulting police officers, tampering with a lorry and hindering people from carrying out their lawful business.

All the charges relate to protests on different dates against Third Energy’s operations on a site off Habton Road, Kirby Misperton, where the energy company is preparing to frack for gas.

All 28 defendants are now expected to present defences connected to the prosecution evidence and the circumstances of the alleged offences at a series of trials starting on April 30.

Their lawyers had prepared legal documents claiming that their actions were within the law because they were exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom to assemble under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

District judge Adrian Lower listed all their cases together at York Magistrates’ Court to hear legal arguments.

But barrister Richard Brigden, representing many of them, told him: “It is accepted as a matter of law, if this court were to find the offence had taken place, there would be no argument, where the offence is made out, that Articles 10 and 11 would protect the defendants.”

Neither Steve Munro, representing other defendants, nor the remaining defendants, who represented themselves, disagreed with him.

None of the 28 were required to attend court, but many did, along with supporters and friends.

So many people wanted to go into the public gallery, some had to wait in the court corridor outside.

Following legal arguments, some of the cases were listed for trial before the district judge on dates between April 30 and May 22.

The other cases were adjourned until February 1 when, along with further allegations from the anti-fracking demonstrations, a second series of trial dates is expected to be set.

Among the incidents that led to the 28 being charged were ones where campaigners are alleged to have climbed on lorries or temporary towers and stayed there for hours at a time, chained themselves to concrete devices in the road, stayed at the top of a working rig on the Third Energy site overnight, and assaulted a police officer with a cup of tea.

Most of the offences are alleged to have occurred on or near Habton Road, but some are alleged to have occurred on the A64, the A169 and at Whitby.

The 45 charges are: 15 of obstructing the highway, 13 of obstructing or resisting police, two of endangering road users, three of assaulting police, one of criminal damage, seven of hindering workers from going about their lawful business or using the vehicles or tools of their lawful business, one of getting onto a lorry on a road, two of besetting a place to prevent employees going about their lawful business and one of threatening words or behaviour.

The offences are alleged to have occurred between September 20, when Third Energy first started operations on the site, and November 10.