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£140k cost of Greenpeace activists' rig drama

By Court Reporter

The Greenpeace protestors appeared in front of Sheriff Chris Dickson
The Greenpeace protestors appeared in front of Sheriff Chris Dickson

Greenpeace protestors were able to board an oil rig in the Cromarty Firth for the second time in a week because of a “failure in communication” as to who would be safeguarding the structure, a court heard.

Meena Rajput (39), Spencer Road, London, and Andrew McParland (52), Epsom, were shackled to Transocean’s Paul B Loyd Junior rig for some 14 hours on Friday June 14 before being forcibly removed.

The operation involved a helicopter, rope access specialists, a police marine diving unit and support vessels, Tain Sheriff Court was told.

It cost the public purse thousands of pounds and Transoceon, which was in the process of moving the rig to the Vorlic Field, lost out to the tune of $130,000

At yesterday's court, Rajput and McParland pleaded guilty to breaching the peace by boarding the rig on June 14 without permission, refusing to leave, tethering themselves to it and placing themselves and others in potential danger.

The Crown accepted the not guilty plea of three others charged with the same offence and they left the dock.

The case against another six activists involved in the initial boarding of the rig earlier in the week also called separately at the same court.

Joanne Paterson (53), Munlochy, admitted committing a breach of the peace between June 9 and June 13.

Fellow activists Thomas Johnstone, Wales, and Peter Chan (49), Reading, were not present but a guilty plea was entered on their behalf by defence agent Jim Bready. Three others left the dock after their not guilty pleas were accepted.

Procurator fiscal said: “The original protestors were removed from the rig on the evening of Thursday, June 13 and the officer in charge that day had just completed a 17-hour shift.

“It does seem there was a failure in communication as to who would be safeguarding the rig.”

Rajput and McParland took advantage of the security failure and sped out to the rig in a fast boat at around 4.30am on June 14.

They shackled themselves to a platform half-way up a rig leg and between the water level and the working and accommodation level.

Procurator fiscal Roderick Urquhart said: “They boarded at a point when the platform was in the process of raising anchors. It was not securely tethered and anchors were swinging around.

“The view of the rig master was that such activity endangered both the protestors and the crew.”

The fiscal added: “At the time of the second occupation there were 99 staff on board and during the protest the bulk of them were confined to the accommodation level.”

Greenpeace broadcasted a message during the protest which was intercepted by Coastguards.

Greenpeace stated: “I am fully aware that all your anchor handling vessels can hear this transmission.

“I would like to inform you that Greenpeace will not allow this rig to depart to Vorlich oil field. We are opposed to you drilling for any oil whatsoever. We would like you to desist immediately from this operation.”

It was not until 5.20pm that the chains were removed from McParland and Rajput was unshackled 40 minutes later. The two were charged at 7pm

Mr Urquhart said: “The figure the rig operators gave to police (for the delay in moving the rig) was $135,000 dollars and the cost to the public purse of the additional police activity during the entire week was £140,000.

Sheriff Chris Dickson deferred sentence on the five Greenpeace activists who tendered guilty pleas, until September 9 for background reports.

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