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Balcombe anti-fracking campaigner accused of assaulting police evidence gatherer with placard

A member of a police evidence gathering team at the anti-fracking protests at Balcombe told Brighton Magistrates Court today (22/1/14) how he was hit on the lip by a placard carried by an environmental campaigner.

PC Stephen Kimber, of Eastbourne Police Station, was working at the front of a police cordon which was escorting a lorry into Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site on August 2nd last year. He alleged that Zachary Hewitt, 23, of Bexhill-on-Sea, deliberately waved the placard to obscure the view of the police evidence camera recording the protest. PC Kimber said he told Mr Hewitt to put the sign down and moved the sign away with his hand. He alleged Mr Hewitt then “raised the sign and trust it towards me … The sign hit me in the mouth and knocked my hat off.”

The court saw video evidence of PC Kimber pulling Mr Hewitt to the ground, who was then restrained by at least three police officers. The video showed members of the crowd trying to pull Mr Hewitt away from the police.

Mr Hewitt and Timothy Harris, 29, Crewkerne, Somerset, deny assaulting PC Kimber. Mr Harris also denies obstructing PC Kimber at Balcombe. Kaity Squires, 20, of Portsmouth, denies assaulting PC Ciaramella.

Stephen Knight, representing Mr Hewitt, put it to PC Kimber that if the placard did hit him it was an accident and resulted from the actions of the police evidence gathering team. PC Kimber said he believed Mr Hewitt’s action was deliberate but he conceded “It was only a tiny cut inside my lip”

Michael Goold, representing Mr Harris, suggested to PC Kimber that he had been frustrated and became angry with Mr Hewitt. PC Kimber said his behaviour had been proportionate.

The court also heard from two other police officers on duty that day. PC Matthew Crane, also from Eastbourne Police Station, described how he was guarding the site entrance about 15 feet away from the incident. He described Mr Hewitt as have greasy unkempt hair in dreadlocks. But defence advocate, Tony Massiah, said Mr Hewitt did not have dreadlocks.

PC Ben Barnatt, from Battle Police Station was the camera operator on the day of the protest. He told the court he pushed the placard away. “The placard came back towards the camera. PC Kimber stepped forwards and he took hold of Mr Hewitt and a struggle ensured.”

The case continues this afternoon.

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