Police and campaigners respond to criticism of anti-fracking protest policing

BY RUTH HAYHURST ON NOVEMBER 20, 2017

Anti-fracking campaigners have called on police to protect their civil right to protest. They were responding to a report published this morning alleging “confrontational and “aggressive” policing. Two police forces in fracking protest areas said they have a duty to balance the right to protest with rights of the wider public.

The report, by the police monitoring group Netpol, called for an external and independent review of policing at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool in Lancashire.

Netpol reported on protest policing at Preston New Road, Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton well pad in North Yorkshire and at sites in Sussex and Surrey.

DrillOrDrop invited police forces and police and crime commissioners in all four counties to respond to Netpol’s allegations. This article will be updated as we receive new responses.

“Balancing rights”
Lancashire Police

“Our aim as always is to ensure is a consistent and coordinated policing response and ensure a balance between the rights of people to peacefully protest, together with the rights of the wider public, including local businesses, to go about their lawful activities.

“We aim to prevent, where possible, crime and disorder, but if it does occur we will provide an effective, lawful and proportionate response.”

“Inconsistent and oppressive policing”
Frack Free Lancashire

A spokesperson said:

“Since Cuadrilla started work we have continually expressed concern about the way in which Lancashire Police have facilitated their work, but have not given equal weight to the right to protest of those opposed to the fracking operations.

“We are fighting a David versus Goliath battle against an invasive industry and yet the current policing model has created a skewed narrative that it is protesters versus the police.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we need the police to protect our hard-won civil right to protest, but this is simply not happening.

“Instead we face inconsistent and oppressive policing, from forces from all around the country, which use legislation intended for industrial disputes to criminalise citizens who have explored all other legitimate means of protest and have seen fracking imposed upon them in spite of a democratic decision to forbid it.

“We once again call upon our MP, Mark Menzies, to recognise the importance of this issue for all of the community that he represents and to ask some serious questions in parliament.”

“Responsibility to carry out duties impartially”
North Yorkshire Police

Superintendent Alisdair Dey, of North Yorkshire Police, said:

“We know that there are very different views about hydraulic fracturing, but as the local police, our responsibility is to carry out our duties impartially.

“That means we have a duty to make sure that people who want to assemble and protest do so safely, balanced against a duty to ensure that businesses can go about their lawful commercial activity.

“We’ll continue to take a neighbourhood policing approach to protests – we will talk to people, explain what is acceptable in terms of safety and reasonableness, and ask them to work with us to make this a safe and peaceful protest.”

“Trust must be repaired”
Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor

“If local residents are beginning to question whether officers are working to protect them or just the interests of the oil and gas industry, the notion of consent has broken down – and trust must be repaired.”

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