by Louie Smith
A judge criticised for handing prison sentences to three fracking protesters has family links to the oil and gas industry.
Judge Robert Altham jailed Simon Blevins, 26, Richard Roberts, 36, and Richard Loizou, 31, over their demonstration at a Cuadrilla site.
The trio, known as the “Fracking Three”, are believed to be the first environmental activists to be imprisoned for public nuisance since 1932.
Critics have claimed the punishment was “manifestly excessive”. Now the Daily Mirror can reveal the Altham family business supplies the Irish Sea oil and gas industry.
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.
Judge Altham’s sister, Jane Watson, put her name to an open letter in favour of fracking, which said, “It’s time to give shale a chance” and claimed it would create jobs.
The judicial code of conduct states a judge’s impartiality may be questioned if family members are “politically active” or have “financial interest” in the outcome of a case.
Lawyers for the protesters are trying to overturn their sentences. Loizou’s mum Sharron, 62, told the Mirror: “I was completely shocked when he was jailed, the sentence is incredibly harsh. We were expecting community service or a suspended sentence.
“It’s quite scary that in this country you can be jailed for a peaceful protest.”