MP’s arrest at Balcombe anti-fracking protest was disproportionate – court told

27th March 2014
Caroline Lucas trial: day three – morning evidence

Caroline Lucas told police she thought her arrest at an anti-fracking protest at Balcombe was disproportionate because the issue was important and she was not inconveniencing anyone.

This morning, the MP’s trial at Brighton Magistrates Court heard the transcript of her interview with police after she was arrested. Miss Lucas and four other campaigners deny obstructing the highway and breaching a police condition on protesters imposed under Section 14 of the Public Order Act on August 19th. It is alleged they failed to use the designated protest area established in the Section 14 order.

Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, read Miss Lucas’s words from the interview and PC Michael Wyborn read the words of the interviewer, DC Christopher Bishop.

DC Bishop described the interview, which took place at Crawley Police Station just after 9pm, as a “chat.” He said “There are always two sides to every story”. He said he just wanted to find out the truth.

Miss Lucas said she had visited Balcombe the day before for a march to Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site. “There were lots of people milling around the place”, she said. “At that point it was not clear that there was a section 14 was in the place. At no point did anyone say or do anything that would have required anyone to make that statement.” On the day of the march, she said: “people felt they had a responsibility to future generations, to their own kids, to come and make a stand.” She said she had felt very privileged to be able to address everyone.”

Miss Lucas said she stayed in Balcombe that night and at 9am on the following day she went to Cuadrilla’s site. She said she joined a group of about 20 people sitting in the entrance area at about 10.30. “We were not blocking the entrance. We had been told that Cuadrilla was not working on these days. It seemed to be a very legitimate form of raising awareness of what is a very important issue” she said.

Miss Lucas said she had tried other ways to raise awareness of fracking and climate change. “I had tried to raise the issue in parliament. It seemed like the government was not listening throughout. I was especially important that everything was non-violent – as it was.”

Miss Lucas said she spent about five hours in the entrance. There was singing and chatting and people brought the group food. Most of the police attention early on was on people in the road. “It didn’t feel that we could not have got up”, she said.

When asked why she had chosen that location, she said: “I chose it because it was not on the main road. I seemed to be a place where people were milling around.” When asked why she had not gone onto the road, she said “It would have felt lie a different action on that main road.”

The police didn’t interact with her group until quite late, Miss Lucas said. Police protest liaison officers read out the Section 14 notice and handed it out. “One landed on my lap””, she said. “Yes I scanned it.”

She described the scene as the police talked about the order. “There was a lot of noise at that point and it would have been quite hard for some people to have heard.” She said people sang “We shall not be moved”. It was, she said, very loud.

When asked whether she could hear the order, Miss Lucas said: I understood the gist that it was a section 14 order and if we didn’t move we risked arrest.”

She was asked why she didn’t move. “I wanted to express solidarity with other protesters. The response from the police, it felt like a disproportionate demand. No one seemed inconvenience at all by us being there.”

Miss Lucas mentioned that someone, possibly a protest legal adviser, suggested that people who did not want to be arrested might move at that point. She confirmed she was free to get up.

When asked why she didn’t move then, Miss Lucas said “because I wanted to express solidarity with the other protesters because the issue was so important. She said the livability of the planet was at stake. “Climate change has been one of the issues most important in my political life. I felt that response was disproportionate … it felt it was legitimate to stay there make that point.”

Earlier the court heard from PC Robert Staplehurst, the officer who arrested Miss Lucas. He told the court he pointed out the Section 14 designated area before the arrest. But Tom Wainwright, for Miss Lucas, said the police video did not show the officer doing this.

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