MP’s anti-fracking protest continued for two hours before arrest

25th March 2014
Caroline Lucas trial: Day two – afternoon evidence

Anti-fracking campaigners, including the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, took part in a sit down protest outside Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site at Balcombe for more than two hours before they were arrested by police.

Superintendent Jane Derrick, the officer in charge of police tactics at Balcombe, told Brighton Magistrates Court she was first aware of the protest outside the site gate at about 10.30am. But the log of her decisions showed that police did not start making arrests until after 1pm, even though they had been given additional powers to deal with demonstrators.

Miss Derrick was giving evidence on the second day of the trial of Caroline Lucas and four other campaigners, Josef Dobraszczyk, Ruth Potts, Ruth Jarman and Sheila Menon. They are accused of an offence under the Public Order Act and of obstructing the highway. They all deny the offences.

Yesterday, acting chief constable Giles York gave evidence about how he had imposed a condition on demonstrators under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. This required them to use a designated protest area north of the site entrance. He signed the order on August 16th and it remained in force until August 21st while the Reclaim the Power Climate Camp remained at Balcombe.

Today, the court heard that on August 19th, a group of people locked themselves onto two wheelchairs in the entrance to Cuadrilla’s site. Other demonstrators, including Miss Lucas, linked arms with them. Nearby another group had linked arms through metal tubes.

Superintendent Derrick’s log showed that she considered the risk of the protest to Cuadrilla’s staff and contractors at about 11am but decided that she had officers nearby and she allowed the protest to continue. At 11.39, she recorded in the log: “It is clear to me that this will continue for a few hours if we are to continue to facilitate the protest.” By then police protest liaison officers had been sent to negotiate with the demonstrators. At 12.20, Supt Derrick recorded that the PLOs said the demonstrators wanted to stay in the entrance all day.

Supt Derrick said that at 1pm she discussed an arrest strategy with officers on the ground. This proposed that people described as “key identified individuals” would be arrested. Supt Derrick told the court these were people who had “actively resisted attempts by the PLOs to move along when asked”. Ten minutes later, the senior officer at the site, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Betts, informed campaigners that they were breaching the Section 14 condition.

Cross-examined by Tom Wainwright, for Miss Lucas and Miss Potts, Supt Derrick said people who had locked-on would be arrested. Of the rest, those passively resisting would be removed from the entrance area and escorted to the designated protest area, where they would be allowed to continue their protest. Those who actively resisted could also be considered for arrest but this was at the discretion of individual officers. Supt Derrick denied that the police had been kettled or contained the demonstrators. She said “I was very clear as to my intention. People should be allowed to walk away.”

DCI Betts also gave evidence this afternoon. He told the court he was initially directed to allow the protest to continue. This tactic was designed to “show we were being reasonable and then through negotiation attempt to move them out.” He said he later addressed the demonstrators, telling them they could still leave and would be escorted to the designated protest area. “A number of people stood up to allow the wheelchairs to get out”, he said. He then deployed officers to remove people from the entrance area.

Mr Wainwright put it to Mr Betts: Your direction to your officers was that people who were not locked on and who refused to move should be considered for arrest. Mr Betts agreed.

More information emerged during this afternoon about policing policy at Balcombe and the response to the climate camp. Supt Derrick said police intelligence officers had identified a number of individuals who would be attending the climate camp. “They had previously undertaken banner drops”, she said and had “the skills and ability to take that type of direction accretion that could cause serious damage to property.”

Supt Derrick was also asked about a memo from a colleague, PC Cowling, which suggested that Section 14 should be a last resort. Supt Derrick said: “You may have the power to do something but you do not necessarily use it. You try to communicate but there may come a time when you need to use police powers and that is what he meant by a last resort.”

Supt Derrick said the policy at Balcombe was for no mass arrests and she suggested that police tolerated the agreement that demonstrators would be allowed to accompany delivery lorries down the road to the site. Supt Derrick recorded: “Minor disruption. Few complaints because many have supported the protest.”

It also became clear that Cuadrilla had scaled down its operation during the climate camp. Mr Wainwright referred to a teleconference call at 4.50 on August 18th where police were informed that just two members of Cuadrilla staff remained on site, along with the security guards. One of these members of staff, Leon Jennings, wrote in an email: “Nothing happening on site today from Cuadrilla point of view. Drilling activity nil. Vehicle movements nil.”

The case continues tomorrow.

Evidence from day one – morning

Evidence from day one – morning and afternoon


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