Seven people were arrested for causing harassment, alarm or distress at the Balcombe anti-fracking protests last summer – but none were convicted.
Freedom of Information requests revealed that police used Sections 4a and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 as the grounds for arrests outside Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site on four dates in August and three in September. Only one of these cases went to court and that person was found not guilty.
Section 4a of the Public Order Act deals with causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. A person found guilty can be sentenced to a maximum of six months in prison or a fine of £5,000 or both.
According to an FOI response from Sussex Police, four people were arrested under Section 4a on August 12th, 17th and 18th and September 19th. Of those, three were charged. Sussex Police later dropped the case against one person and the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued the case of two others. The fourth person denied the charge in a trial at Horsham Magistrates Court and was acquitted.
Section 5 is a similar charge to Section 4a but does not include the word “intentional”. The maximum sentence is a fine of £1,000. Three people were arrested under Section 5 on August 27th, September 3rd and September 5th. Of them, only one was charged and that case was later dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.
None of the people arrested under either Section 4a or 5 were later charged with alternative offences.
To read the full FOI responses click here:
Section 4a arrests