Pennine Waterways News

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Canal Protest Farmer Goes to Prison

A Rochdale farmer has been sent to prison following a further act of vandalism to the canal near his farm.

Christopher Jones of Maden Fold Farm, Castleton has been involved in a long-running dispute with British Waterways originating from the routing of the Rochdale Canal through a tunnel under the M62 that had previously been used for farm access. It was reported that Mr Jones was not happy with the alternative route provided, which included two new bridges across the canal.

In 2001, when the canal first re-opened, Mr Jones blocked Lock 53 with the arm of his fork lift truck as a protest. He made the news again in 2002 when he jumped into the water ahead of the boat carrying the VIPs to the official opening ceremony of the Rochdale Canal.

During 2007 a number of incidents occurred near Maden Fold Farm, including the canal bank being breached with machinery and the balance beams of the nearby lock being sawn through.

Balance beams sawn through, May 2007
In February 2007, Mr Jones was issued with a court injunction requiring him not to cause further damage to the canal. However, following a further incident in April, Mr Jones appeared in court in June and was given a 3-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, subject to his not breaching the injunction within that period.

Further damage to the canal was allegedly carried out in January, as a result of which, Mr Jones has now been sent to prison.

British Waterways has issued the following statement:
"Over the last 12 months Mr Christopher Jones of Maden Fold Farm has breached the Rochdale Canal with an excavator on a number of occasions.

British Waterways, acting on behalf of the Rochdale Canal Company and The Waterways Trust sought and obtained an injunction last year from Manchester High Court stopping him from interfering with the canal. Later in the year he was given a three month prison sentence, suspended for two years, for breaching the canal again.

He again breached the canal in January 2008, and yesterday (Monday 25 February) was found guilty of breaching the court injunction. The suspended sentence was lifted and he began his three month sentence. The court felt the Mr Jones had been given every possible generosity but that this had been rejected.

British Waterways has pursued this application after serious consideration, and has not taken these steps lightly. The organisation cannot condone actions of this kind which lead to damage of property, along with the high resultant costs to the tax payer. They are not wishing to be either vindictive nor malicious, but simply wish to peacefully operate the canal for the enjoyment of all users."

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