1st April 2014
Section 14 trial: Day two – morning evidence
The temporary chief constable of Sussex was accused this morning of agreeing to controls on the Balcombe anti-fracking protests for six days last summer to prevent disruption to the oil exploration company, Cuadrilla.
Giles York, the deputy chief constable at the time of the Balcombe protests, signed an order that gave police the power to enforce a designated protest area alongside Cuadrilla’s site. People who failed to move to the protest area could be arrested under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.
Mr York signed the order on August 16th after a briefing by Superintendent Jane Derrick, the officer in charge of police tactics at the protests. It remained in force until August 21st, the period that the No Dash for Gas climate camp set up between Balcombe and Cuckfield.
Mr York was giving evidence on the second day of a trial of nine anti-fracking campaigners at Brighton Magistrates Court. He said he signed the order because he believed a public assembly during the climate camp posed a risk of serious public disorder, serious damage to property and serious disruption to the life of the community.
But Tom Wainwright, defending three of the campaigners, said: “You were concerned that Cuadrilla would have to shut down – that was the risk to Cuadrilla.” Mr York denied the suggestion. He said he understood that emergency vehicles had to have access to the site.
In answering questions from Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, CC York said he believed the climate camp would bring a shift in the nature of the protest at Balcombe. He said he was concerned about the increase in the number of people at the protest and an increase in the capacity and intention for direct action. He said he was also concerned that demonstrators could damage the fencing and get into the site, causing damage to equipment. On disruption to the life of the community, CC York said he was concerned about both people in Balcombe and Cuadrilla’s staff.
Mr Wainwright suggested Mr York was using post-hoc justification to explain why he signed the order. He said the temporary chief constable had not mentioned fencing when he gave evidence last week at the trial of Caroline Lucas MP, which covered events on the same day and the same issues. He also said Mr York mentioned only the Cuadrilla community at last week’s trial. “That is a fair observation”, Mr York said, but the temporary chief constable questioned whether his evidence at that trial had been “complete”.
Mr Wainwright put it Mr York that the tactical plan identified the risk of public disorder was low. Mr York said “I do not recall that specific part of the risk assessment.”
When asked if the Section 14 order would prevent disruption to the lives of people in Balcombe, Mr York said “It depends where the community lines are drawn”. Judge William Ashworth asked the temporary chief constable : “Does Section 14 help your life if you are part of the Balcombe community?” Mr York replied: “It was about how other places might be subject to protest”. He said the police were concerned that demonstrators might protest on the main railway line. But when asked whether the railway was mentioned in the tactical plan for policing the climate camp, Mr York said: “Not to my knowledge.” He also said it was not his intention to use the Section 14 agreement to prevent protest anywhere else in Sussex.
Also this morning, defence barristers cross-examined Supt Jane Derrick, the author of the tactical plan. In response to questions by Mr Wainwright, she accepted there were no minutes of briefing with Mr York and that the meeting lasted just 30 minutes. When asked whether she informed Mr York that Cuadrilla was not planning to drill during the climate camp or accept deliveries and that there were minimal staff on duty. She replied “Yes from what I remember.” Asked how many people who were expected to attend the climate camp and had the skills to get into Cuadrilla’s site, Supt Derrick said “a handful, six.”
After the order had been signed, Supt Derrick said she instructed police protest liaison officers to put up notices at the protest of the Section 14 designated protest area. She said she also asked the PLOs to distribute notices to the demonstrators on August 19th. But when Mr Wainwright put it to her that she could not say who was spoken to by the PLOs, she said “No.”
The superintendent was also asked about her what her instructions on how to handle people at the sit-down protest. She said those who had entangled arms and legs and refused to leave should be escorted to the Section 14 area where they would be allowed to continue their protest.
Video footage from the police helicopter played to the court today showed two people who were led away and left in the Section 14 designated protest area. Yesterday, the court heard evidence from PC Mark Nichols who said he was not aware that he could have de-arrested demonstrators. “If I am going to arrest someone I would arrest them”, he said.
The environmental campaigners on trial are: Katie Brown, 34, Luke Evans, 34, and James Jones, 19, all from Liverpool, Camille Herreman, 26, and Matthew Whitney, 30, both of Nottingham, Phillip Cawkwell, 52, of Ascot, Chris Seal, 30, of London, Barry Slipper, 47, of Hythe, and Kim Turner, 57, of Brighton.
All the campaigners except Mr Cawkwell are charged with failing to comply with a police condition imposed under the Public Order Act and with obstructing the highway at Balcombe on August 19th. Mr Cawkwell is charged solely with obstructing the highway.
The case continues this afternoon.