Woman, 64, becomes first person convicted of blocking oil depots

Protests at oil depots in south Essex have caused fuel shortages in Suffolk and the rest of East Anglia

Catherine Maclean, 64, admitted the charge at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Saturday. - Credit: PA

A 64-year-old woman has become the first person to be convicted following protests at oil depots in south Essex that have caused fuel shortages in the region.

Catherine Maclean had been charged with aggravated trespass after an incident in Thurrock on Wednesday, April 13, Essex Police said.

Maclean, of Hurstpierpoint, Hassocks, in West Sussex, admitted the charge at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Saturday.

She was ordered to pay a total of £409, including a £270 fine, £105 in court costs and a £34 victim surcharge.

Police officers work to free a Just Stop Oil activist at a blockade in Grays, Essex

Police officers work to free a Just Stop Oil activist at a blockade in Grays, Essex (file photo) - Credit: PA

Essex Police has charged 23 people in connection with disruption caused in Thurrock over the last 17 days.

A teenager from Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, had previously been arrested as part of a protest in Thurrock on April 1.

Activists from Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion have been blocking access to oil terminals across the country, demanding that the government stops new oil and gas projects.

But the demonstrations have seen some forecourts run out of fuel.

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Recent government figures have revealed stations in the East of England were only 19% full of petrol at the start of last week and 23% full of diesel.

Before the Covid pandemic, they would usually operate at about 40% full of petrol and 48% full of diesel.

East Anglia appears to be particularly badly hit because much of its fuel comes from refineries in south Essex, beside the Thames estuary.

Rachel Nolan, Essex Police assistant chief constable, said: "We are not anti-protest in any way - individuals have a protected right to protest but these incidents have unfortunately crossed into criminality and we have been left with no other option but act and seek authorisation from the Crown Prosecution Service to charge people."

Police officers at the Navigator Oil Terminal in Grays after protests

Police officers at the Navigator Oil Terminal in Grays after protests - Credit: PA

There are no ongoing incidents in Essex on Suday morning and no further arrests have been made in the last 24 hours with 461 people arrested in total by Essex Police.

Detective Superintendent Stephen Jennings, who is overseeing our investigation, said: "Unfortunately for Ms Maclean, she had no option but to admit the offence she was charged with.

“The investigators who we have working on this team are thorough, focussed and determined. We have a strong plan in place to deal with this criminality, as yesterday’s convictions shows.

“In total, 23 people have now been charged as part of this operation with cases being built against a number of other people.

“Our message to anyone intent on causing disruption here in Essex is clear and simple; don’t do it, our officers will arrest you and our first-class investigators will build a case against you, leaving you with very little option but admit the offences.”