Police told MP to move to designated protest area – court hears

26th March 2014
Caroline Lucas trial: day three – afternoon evidence

A police liaison officer on duty at the Balcombe anti-fracking demonstrations told a court this afternoon how she got no response when she asked the MP Caroline Lucas to move to a designated protest area.

Inspector Rachel Carr was giving evidence at the trial of Miss Lucas and four other anti-fracking campaigners. They deny obstructing the highway and an offence under the public order act.

Inspector Carr said she had been instructed to talk to demonstrators taking part in a sit-down protest at the entrance to Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site. She was also ordered to give the demonstrators a written notice about the protest area and map.

She described how Miss Lucas was sitting cross-legged in a group of 10-12 people, holding hands with people on either side. Some of the group had locked themselves to wheelchairs. She said she crouched down to talk to the MP. “As I started to talk to her, the whole group began to sing”, Inspector Carr said.

The court had heard earlier how police had used Section 14 of the Public Order Act to require demonstrators to use a designated protest area away from the entrance.

Inspector Carr said: “I told her there was a Section 14 condition in place and that sitting where she was she was in breach of Section 14. I showed her where she could go to sit. If she did not move she would be liable to arrest.”

When asked by Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, what reaction she got from the MP, Miss Carr said: “No reaction. She was looking away from me when I spoke to her.” Miss Lucas looked at the notice when I placed it on her lap but didn’t speak, Inspector Carr added.

Tom Wainwright, for Miss Lucas, put it to the inspector that she had not mentioned in her statement that she pointed to the Section 14 area. “You will see me on the video footage indicating with my hand”, she said. Mr Wainwright played a section of video and Inspector Carr indicated where she was showing the area to another demonstrator. When asked if she gave the notice to Ruth Jarman or Sheila Menon, who are also on trial, the inspector said she could not confirm that.

The court also heard from PC Tristan Port, of Devon and Cornwall Police, who arrested Josef Dobraszczyk, another campaigner on trial. PC Port said he spoke to Mr Dobraszczyk three times asking him to move from the area but got no response. “I told him I was arresting him under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. I cautioned him and other officers removed him from the area.”

Shahida Begum, for Mr Dobraszczyk, played the video of the arrest and put it PC Port that he said “If you do not move you will be arrested”. At that point, Miss Begum said, the officers were moving Mr Dobraszczyk. “I do not agree”, PC Port replied. “I said he is under arrest”.

The final witness of the day was PC Louise Dudson, the police officer who arrested Miss Menon. She was sitting next to Caroline Lucas at the protest and is the fifth of the group on trial. PC Dudson said she used what she called a “five-step appeal” with Miss Menon. This comprised asking Miss Menon to move, telling her why this was needed, giving her options, confirming the request and then taking action. PC Dudson said Miss Menon was arrested and cautioned and gave no response.

Owen Greenhall, for Miss Menon, suggested to PC Dudson that she said nothing about the condition off the Section 14 notice or about obstructing the highway. “I said she had to come to the Section 14 area”, PC Dudson replied. “You cannot hear any words of arrest in the footag”, Mr Greenhall said. “No you can’t”, PC Dudson said. “Miss Menon didn’t know the Section 14 conditions were in place”, Mr Greenhall said. “I believe she did”, PC Dudson replied.

Miss Lucas, 53, of Brighton, Mr Dobraszczyk, 22, of Bristol, Miss Potts, 39, of Totnes, Miss Jarman, 50, of Hook, and Miss Menon, 41, of London all deny obstructing the highway and failing to comply with a police condition imposed under Section 14 of the Public Order Act on August 19th last year.

The case continues tomorrow with two more witnesses for the prosecution. The defence case is expected to start in the late morning or early afternoon.

[Post updated at 20.39 on 26/3/14 to insert missing words from paragraph 11]

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