Protesters fined after attempting to block road on Grand National day

Police at the 2023 Grand National and, inset, Rosa Sharkey and James Kelly smile outside court. Credit: PA/Animal Rising

Two protesters have been fined after attempting to block a road near Aintree racecourse on the day of the 2023 Grand National.

Rosa Sharkey, 23, and James Kelly, 46, were found guilty of wilful obstruction of a highway following a trial at South Sefton Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, a spokesman for Merseyside Police said.

Activists from Animal Rising attempted to block roads around Aintree on 15 April 2023, while others gained entry to the course, causing the steeplechase to be delayed by almost 15 minutes.

Police said it also caused significant traffic delays.

Sharkey, of Chase Side Avenue, Enfield, London, and Kelly, of Mornant Avenue, Hartford, Cheshire were both accused of protesting on Wango Lane.

They were ordered to pay £690 and £550 respectively, a force spokesman said.

Detective Chief Inspector Ben Dyer, of Merseyside Police, said: “Sharkey and Kelly relied heavily on their right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights during their court hearing.

"But despite this they were both found guilty and issued fines by the district judge.

“Merseyside Police respects the right to a peaceful protest and expression of views, but criminal behaviour and disorder will never be tolerated.

“I hope this sends a clear message and acts as a deterrent to others that we will put you before the courts to be prosecuted for these serious actions.”

Police search an activist outside the gates ahead of day three of the 2023 Randox Grand National Festival. Credit: PA

In a statement, Animal Rising said their actions “helped shine the spotlight onto our broken relationship with animals and the natural world”.

Sharkey said: “It’s clear that the British public is moving away from cruel and harmful industries like horse racing.

“It’s time for us all to truly embrace what it means to be a nation of animal lovers and work to create a world where animals currently in horse racing, farming – or even the Army – can live free and happy lives.”

Seven other defendants are due to face trial for wilful obstruction of a highway later in May.