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Police officer “lost his temper” at anti-fracking protests – court hears

Two people who attended the anti-fracking protests at Balcombe spoke this afternoon about how they went to the aid of a fellow demonstrator who they thought was being assaulted by a policeman.

Kaity Squires, 20, from Portsmouth, and Timothy Harris, 29, from Crewkerne in Somerset, were giving evidence at the second day of their trial at Brighton Magistrates Court. Also on trial is Zachary Hewitt, 23, of Bexhill-on-Sea.

The court heard how Mr Hewitt had been walking with a placard in front of a police convoy escorting a truck into Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site. The police had alleged that Mr Hewitt hit a police evidence gatherer in the mouth with the placard. He denies this and claims the officer, PC Stephen Kimber, held him in a head lock as he tried to arrest him.

The incident happened on August 2nd last year outside the site at London Road in Balcombe. Mr Harris told the court there was a sudden change in the atmosphere at the protest. He said “It appeared that PC Kimber lost his temper. I believed he was assaulting Zach….There was a unanimous feeling that PC Kimber had crossed a line and was hurting him.”

Mr Harris said he went to Mr Hewitt’s assistance. “I got Zach with both hands and tried to drag him by the shirt.” He said the situation became chaotic and he became worried about losing his balance. He found he had grabbed PC Kimber’s upper arm to remain upright. He said he let go of PC Kimber, lost his balance and fell down. He was arrested about half an hour later. He was charged with obstructing PC Kimber and assaulting the officer by striking him. He denies both the charges.

Mr Edwards, prosecuting, suggested to Mr Harris “You were trying to get PC Kimber off your fellow protestor.” Mr Harris disagreed. He said he did not believe PC Kimber was trying to make an arrest. Mr Harris said wanted to get Mr Hewitt into a position of safety away from the officer who, he believed, had lost control.

Miss Squires told the court she went to the protest to find out first-hand about fracking. She described how she went to help Mr Hewitt after seeing him held face down in a muddy puddle by PC Kimber. “He [Mr Hewitt] looked very distressed.  The police officer didn’t look as if he was going to stop.”

Yesterday, it was alleged that Miss Squires assaulted PC Mario Ciaramella, by punching and kicking him. She denies the charge.

This afternoon, she said she was flung away from the scene of Mr Hewitt’s arrest. “I was disorientated. I had been assaulted for no reason. I had never been in a situation like that.” Miss Squires said she lost her balance and fell but got straight back up. She said a police officer grabbed one of her feet and tried to pull her along.

The court watched video evidence of the incident several times. Miss Squires was asked if she attempted to punch or kick PC Ciaramella and she said no. She says she banged her head several times as she was carried away by police. She admits telling the police she was 14 years old. She said “I thought I was way too small to be treated like that. I was in a lot of pain.”

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