Legal

Don’t “gold-plate” human rights when dealing with protest camps – ministers

Former camp outside Rathlin Energy's site at Crawberry Hill

Former camp outside Rathlin Energy’s site at Crawberry Hill

The government has instructed local councils and the police to do more to stop protest camps, including those against oil and gas operations.

In a letter last week, two government ministers urged public bodies not to “gold—plate” human rights law when dealing with camps.

The local government minister, Brandon Lewis, and the policing minister, Mike Penning, told police and local councils to use the “strong powers” they had to stop camps forming

Over the past two years, anti-fracking campaigners have set up camps outside many exploratory oil and gas sites across the UK. One of the first camps was established outside Cuadrilla’s site at Balcombe in West Sussex in July 2013. One of the most recent is the current camp at Europa’s site at Kiln Lane, near Immingham in Lincolnshire.

The Ministers’ letter said: “We are very concerned by reports that local authorities and the police are not being seen to be doing enough to stop unauthorised traveller encampments”.

“Public bodies should not gold-plate human rights and equalities legislation”.

In many cases, local authorities have taken legal action to remove the camps. Sometimes, as at Balcombe, campaigners made successful challenges in the courts and delayed eviction. At Kiln Lane, North East Lincolnshire Council served an eviction notice last week, giving campaigners seven days to remove tents from the grass verge.

Campaigners have argued that they have rights to protests under articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of peaceful assembly) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Tents at the Balcombe Protection Camp, West Sussex, August 2013

Tents at the Balcombe Protection Camp, West Sussex, August 2013

The Ministers’ letter added: “We want to see local authorities, the police and other local agencies working together to address the problem of unauthorised encampments.”

It reissued what the ministers said were the “robust powers” to remove camps from both public and private land. This included a recommendation that police and local authorities should identify sites where protests could be directed or permitted. If a local site was regarded as vulnerable, local authorities could consider applying to the courts for a pre-emptive injunction preventing camps in a defined geographical are, the guidance said.

When deciding whether to take action, the ministers suggest public bodies consider

  • The harm that developments can cause to local amenities and the local environment
  • The potential interference with the peaceful enjoyment of neighbouring property
  • The need to maintain public order and safety and protect health
  • Any harm to good community relations

The letter was dated 27th March, the final week day for government business before the start of the pre-election purdah period, which began today. We asked the Department of Communities and Local Government why the letter had been sent last week. But the press officers were unable to comment.

6 replies »

  1. what about the 24 know m.p. pedo’s who walk about free from the law,i think this needs to be delt with,
    because we can not have a two tire system of law one law for me and you and no law for M.P.s. As for
    this taking away our Human Rights because right minded folk want to protest, are the M.P.s back handers
    that good they would do harm to our law system we have all paid for in blood over the last 800 years…..
    shame on the M.P.s shame.how do M.P.s work with suspected pedo’s, more shame on all m.p.s…

  2. The ministers suggest the police to take the following in to consideration when deciding on a action
    •The harm that developments can cause to local amenities and the local environment
    •The potential interference with the peaceful enjoyment of neighbouring property
    •The need to maintain public order and safety and protect health
    •Any harm to good community relations
    Pity that all these things are not taken in consideration by the government when they plan for fracking pads in peoples backyards!!! I suggest to the dear ministers to listen to their own advice !!

    • Given that the contest for many seats in the election is finely balanced there is a potential for a relatively small number of anti-fracking candidates to exercise significant influence in the next parliament.

      Tories are ignoring the mounting social and environmental concerns related to fracking and in finely balanced contest that may prove to be costly, particularly in marginal seats.

      The drill-happy commentators here are way too dismissive of the potential impact of the anti-fracking movement, although it is true that the best hope of making an impact is where mainstream candidates take a stand.

      The Greens have attempted to use the issue as a recruiting sergeant but to seriously challenge the industry voters need to support mainstream candidates to broaden the opposition and give it a realistic chance of success.

  3. Thats it stop the public having a voice crack down on these trouble makers who dare to get in the way of profit !!!

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