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Police pressure point technique unexpected and distressing, anti-fracking campaigner told court

3rd April 2014

Section 14 trial: Day four – afternoon evidence
Three women arrested at a sit-down protest against fracking outside Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site at Balcombe gave evidence at their trial this afternoon.

Kim Turner, 56, of Brighton, Katie Brown, 34, of Liverpool, and Camille Herreman, 26, of Nottingham, all deny obstructing the highway and failing to comply with a police order imposed under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.

The three had all come to Balcombe for the No Dash for Gas climate camp, which was held from August 16-21st last year. On August 19th, they joined a group sitting near the site gate, which included four men who had locked their arms into tubes. The protest began at about 10.30am and ended when police began to arrest demonstrators after about 3.30pm.

During that day, police imposed a condition under the Public Order Act, which required demonstrators to use a designated protest area north of the site entrance on the verge and eastern carriageway. Police officers gave evidence earlier in the trial that demonstrators were asked to go to the designated area and those that refused were arrested.

Miss Turner, a charity administrator, told Brighton Magistrates Court about her reaction when police used the pressure point arrest technique on one of the demonstrators in her group. “I was really stressed by that. I had not seen anyone pressure pointed before. It had been unexpected. It was very unpleasant. It really threw me.”

She said she was not aware of what was being said when a police officer talked to her. “I was quite freaked out”, she said. “I was quite frightened. I was not quite with it at that point.” Asked by her barrister, Tom Wainwright, why she didn’t move, she said she wanted to support people who were locked-on.

On police evidence gathering film, Miss Turner is heard saying: “I want to sit here with my friend.” Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, put it to her that this was her response to the police request to move. “No”, Miss Turner said.

“Is it your account that you spontaneously said that?”, Mr Edwards asked.

“Yes”, Miss Turner said.

“That is patently untrue”, Mr Edwards said.

“I was aware of his presence,” Miss Turner replied. “It was not a response because I did not heard what he said. I was really distressed and frightened. I had never seen violence like this quite close up.”

Mr Edwards suggested that she failed to walk when she was arrested as a tactic to make it harder for the police.

“No”, she said. “That is just what happened. It was not a tactic. I have not been in a situation like this before. I do not have tactics for this situation.”

“You defied the request to move because you wanted to make your protest”, Mr Edwards said. “I didn’t defy any request. I didn’t hear the request”, Miss Turner replied.

The second witness was Katie Brown, the editor of Ethnical Consumer magazine. She said she had reported on fracking in northern England and came to the protest to show solidarity with people of Balcombe. She visited the site with 19-year-old James Jones, who was one of the four people locked-on in the protest.

Miss Brown said she left the sit-down protest by the entrance gate at least twice during the day, on the first occasion to find a compost bin. Her barrister, Shahida Begum, asked: “Were you allowed to go back to the entrance?” “Yes”, Miss Brown said. “Did anyone mention anything about Section 14?” “No” Miss Brown said. “When you then went to the toilet were you able to get back in?” “Yes”, Miss Brown replied. “Was anything said about Section 14 then?” “No”, Miss Brown said.

Mr Edwards asked why she didn’t voluntarily get up and leave when people were moved from the group by police. “I felt concerned for James’s welfare. I was there in a supportive role.”

The group were filmed singing “We shall not be moved.” Mr Edwards asked why that song. Miss Brown said: “It was an affirmation of our intention to not let this poisonous industry take hold in this country.”

District Judge William Ashworth asked Miss Brown whether she was aware that police were going to move the group. “I was not particularly concerned about what would happen to me”, she said. Her concern was for the people who were locked on.

The final witness of the day was Camille Herreman, a Nottingham University student support officer. Miss Herreman said she joined the protest because she wanted to support Matthew Whitney, another of the men who had locked on. She said she felt he was vulnerable.

Mr Edwards said video footage showed her holding on to someone who was being removed by police from the group. “My concern was that James Jones was in pain”, she said.

“You were resisting the police from removing that man from the share”, Mr Edwards said.

“Not intentionally”, Miss Herreman said.

“Officers were having to swat your hand away from the legs of that person they were trying to remove”, Mr Edwards suggested.

“I don’t agree that I was trying to prevent that individual being taken away”, Miss Herreman said.

Mr Edwards suggested that Miss Herreman tried to ignore a police officer who was asking her to move by singing more loudly. Miss Herreman replied that the situation was chaotic and there were a lot of people moving around. “I was singing at the top of my voice”, she said “I was pretty stressed. I had no idea that this police officer had spoken to me. When I saw the video I was shocked.”

“That officer is going from side to side and you are looking away as if you are deliberating avoid her”, Mr Edwards suggested.

“No”, said Miss Hereman.

“You sought in defiance to ignore the police officer who told you to move”, Mr Edwards said. Miss Herreman replied: “I was not trying to ignore. I was trying to protest. I didn’t understand why people were being moved.”

Mr Edwards suggested: “You thought the police were not justified in removing the group.” “I would not make a judgement about what police could or could not do”, Miss Herreman said. “I was exercising my right to protest.”

All the women said they did not believe the area near the gate was part of the highway or that they were causing an obstruction. They said they did not hear announcements about the Section 14 condition or the designated protest area. They said they had not been told about the need to keep the gate clear for emergency vehicles. Miss Turner said the first thing she knew about Section 14 was at her solicitor’s office three weeks after her arrest.

The other people on trial are: Mr Whitney, 30, of Nottingham, Mr Jones, from Liverpool, Phillip Cawkwell, 52, from Ascot, Barry Slipper, 66, from Hythe, Luke Evans, 34, from Liverpool, Chris Seal, 30, of London. They are all charged with obstructing the highway and failing to comply with a police condition under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. All deny all the charges.

The case continues tomorrow when Mr Evans is due to give evidence.

Morning evidence

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