Legal

Updated: Calls for assurance on policing anti-fracking protests in North Yorkshire

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The Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire is being urged to consult local people about protection for the rights to protest against fracking.

NetpolThe call by Netpol, an organisation which monitors public order policing, follows the decision by the county council yesterday to approve plans by Third Energy to frack at Kirby Misperton.

Netpol also accused North Yorkshire Police of inflaming the already emotive fracking debate with an “unhelpful” tweet minutes after the decision was announced.

In a separate development, the Police and Crime Commissioner said this evening the cost of anti-fracking protests in the county were unlikely to exceed £1.5m and budgets were in place.

“Clear standards and expectations”

In a statement issued today, Netpol said Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were in a position to scrutinise how police forces complied with their human rights obligations. It said:

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Julia Mulligan

“Netpol is therefore calling on North Yorkshire’s PCC Julia Mulligan to consult widely with the public, and in particular those opposed to fracking, to draw up and publish a clear set of standards and expectations, agreed by the Chief Constable, on how North Yorkshire Police will exercise its positive duty to protect the right to participate in protest against fracking.

“This should address concerns about large-scale intelligence-gathering, decisions that lead to the unfair and arbitrary categorisation of protesters as alleged ‘extremists’ and the subsequent use of increasingly coercive and aggressive tactics against them.”

The costs of protests

Julia Mulligan, a Conservative, was re-elected North Yorkshire’s PCC on 5 May this year.

We asked her to comment on Netpol’s call. Her office released the following statement this evening about the costs of  policing protests. We’ll update this post with any other comment when we receive from the PCC.

“There is a positive duty on North Yorkshire Police to facilitate lawful and peaceful protests, with fracking being absolutely no different, and I do not expect any resourcing issues as a result of the County Council’s decision.

“North Yorkshire Police has the necessary contingencies and budgets in place to ensure the force is well able to deal with such events in the calm and professional manner you would expect, ensuring any impact on local residents is kept to a minimum.

“Above and beyond our usual budgeting there are also reserves earmarked for any unplanned Major Incidents, as well as a general reserve which is there for any eventuality.  I firmly believe however that any lawful and peaceful protest will be facilitated by the police as usual, keeping costs to a minimum.

“In the worst case, there is the option to apply to the Home Office for financial support should the costs exceed 1.0% of North Yorkshire Police’s budget, or about £1.5m, but I believe that is highly unlikely to happen.”

“Unhelpful and inflammatory”

Netpol’s proposal for a PCC consultation follows a tweet and statement by the North Yorkshire force last night.

The tweet, posted at 6.56pm by North Yorkshire Police came about five minutes after the vote on Third Energy’s fracking application. The announcement that the plans had been approved was met by jeers among a crowd of about 150 opponents of fracking outside County Hall in Northallerton. The North Yorkshire Police tweet warned:

Please be aware, the police will take action against unlawful behaviour linked to the #nyshale protest”.

NY POlice tweet

It linked to a statement issued by North Yorkshire Police before the meeting started on Friday 20 May.

This said the police would take “appropriate action against those who break the law” and “not tolerate criminal behaviour and we will ensure public order is maintained”.

Netpol said:

“Raising the temperature of an already fraught and emotive debate with an unnecessarily inflammatory press release is unhelpful. It is also another indicator of all too commonplace and negative assumptions by police about what have always been overwhelmingly peaceful anti-fracking protests.

“It is this attitude that leads directly to the kind of costly and disproportionate policing operations Netpol has documented over the last three years, involving large numbers of officers and intensive surveillance on campaigners who are simply trying to exercise their rights of assembly and freedom of speech.”

At 8pm, North Yorkshire posted a more conciliatory tweet linked to a press release which praised opponents outside County Hall and thanked them for their co-operation.

NY Police Press Release

DrillorDrop also invited North Yorkshire Police to comment and we’ll update this post with any response we receive.

  • Netpol also said it was essential that campaigners understood their rights, had trained legal observers at protests and were able to access solicitors with extensive experience of public order law.

Updated at 6.15 to include statement by the Police and Crime Commissioner

27 replies »

  1. Let’s not forget the theft of signs and men of the cloth posting tweets glorifying that very theft? Perhaps you should reread the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican Michael.(That’s Luke 18:9 in case you’ve forgotten). Then have a read of Mathew 7:5 – “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

  2. I’m led to believe that the costs for policing at the Barton Moss Igas site, cost Greater Manchester Police £1.7 million for which they received no compensation from the government.

    QUESTION….. If the public ( tax payers ) are so against this industry, who exactly is going to benefit from its existance ???

    • The fracking companies should pay or central government as they are forcing the fracking agenda against the will of locals. The police, have to police football matches and many other events – so just making this a fracking issue is a bit unfair, people have a right to peaceful protest. Football is a sport, people fighting to prevent industrialisation of the countryside, their communities, pollution and climate change will see they have just as much right to lawfully protest, which will incur policing costs just as football fans do attending their favourite sport.

      • I agree KT, just as with any other business, security costs should be paid for by the company itself.

  3. I was at the demonstration on Friday 20 May, and I thought the police did a very good job, and later I saw they sent out a couple of tweets thanking the demonstrators for their cooperation, and praising the organising groups. I would like to see mutual good will and cooperation continue.

  4. What very odd things do get posted on here by pro-frackers, to be sure. I saw nothing over the two days but cheerful and civilised people exercising their democratic right to protest. I did notice, by the way, that the police had a dog unit parked around the corner, and could be seen exercising the dogs in the grassy area near the station at times during the day. A bit baffling, really – I mean, what were they expecting – Class War? They must have had a very long couple of days. Mind you, it did give them the chance to take it in turns to buy themselves a rock bun at the cake stall, and their colleagues seemed to enjoy having chats with people to while away the hours.

    • ..yes and pay themselves and the security guards loads of overtime at the taxpayers expense swell as directing the councillors who had voted for fracking and pollution and damage to local business..away from the people who wanted to challenge them about their disastrous decision.

  5. Genuinely peaceful protest has a right to be protected but when drilling took place near Balcombe the police allowed protesters to close a legal operation for a week & severely hamper it for two months. I trust Yorkshire Police will take a more robust line if if similar antics are attempted.

    • well lets hope as opposition progresses that people will take similar action to obstruct further drilling and fracking….damage to people by the british gas owned company was called collateral damage ..this is war …the balcombe people have forced the drillers to suspend gas extrction and have formed a neighbourhood solar company.

  6. I think you’ll find that District Judge Nicholas Sanders confirmed in a ruling in January 2016 that slow walking is a legitimate form of protest Rodney – you may not like that, but thankfully it’s not you that makes the law 🙂

  7. I agree with the proposal that the fracking companies should pay for the policing of all the fracking operations, not just a massive presence to prevent legal protest by the anti-fracking movement. If the local planning authorities and central government had not given themselves draconian and undemocratic powers to overturn planning authorities, Parish Councils and Public and planning consultations in favour of riding rough shod over local opinion, an expensive police presence would not be neccessary. high cost policing has only become neccessary because local public opinion and consultation is plainly ignored at every level in the drive to frack at all costs.

    I would like to see police involved in monitoring transport of hazardous waste and where it can be stored/disposed of, this will be substantial and dangerous to other road users and local communities. Safe legal disposal is still not resolved or even a viable proposal yet, i would say that until this has been established and successfully trialed, no transport of hazardous chemicals to and from the fracking site should be authorised as safe.

    Also i request the police protect the civil rights of the surrounding communities and prioritise safety, the police should work hand in hand with the Environment Agency on this, whose operations should also be funded by the Fracking operators. Consult the local residents, dont issue ultimatums unless it is across the board, not just aimed at protesters.
    If the police want to warn fracking protesters that the police would take “appropriate action against those who break the law” and “not tolerate criminal behaviour and we will ensure public order is maintained”, then lets see the same protection and warnings levelled against the fracking operators. This would be a fair and balanced approach, and not the result of what has been carried out so far, that fracking companies are not policed but fracking protesters are and at the expense of the tax payer, when fracking companies hide their taxable revenue in offshore tax havens.
    Over to you Netpol.

    • The Police is not a private security contractor for any organization or companies so the company involved has no responsibility to pay for it. Neither it conduct of business was out of order or illegal. The police is there to maintain public order and safety it is those who create public disorders that need to pay.

  8. TW states ”The Police is not a private security contractor for any organization or companies so the company involved has no responsibility to pay for it. Neither it conduct of business was out of order or illegal. The police is there to maintain public order and safety it is those who create public disorders that need to pay.”

    Please look at this document:

    Click to access ACPO%20Police%20Costs%202014.pdf

    This is the ACPO and APCC guidelines for charging for police services. Fracking operations have been expensive regarding policing services. in the above statement it says ”In a separate development, the Police and Crime Commissioner said this evening the cost of anti-fracking protests in the county were unlikely to exceed £1.5m and budgets were in place.” This is tax payers money set aside that could be used to to better purpose elsewhere, not monopolised by private companies. This is just one county and it is just an estimate, i think it is entirely reasonable that the fracking companies should be asked to pay for the police services, they are a private company, the police are there to keep the peace and maintain the rule of Law for everyone, not just the fracking operators. Rule of Law and keeping the peace is not only a right to call upon the police to have a presence just to protect them, it also extends to the police having responsibility to protect the protesters from the fracking operators.
    I say again, the protesters all ready pay their tax to the maximum amount (as do the individual policemen and women), the fracking operators have offshore accounts which let them avoid paying their fair share of tax. Let the fracking companies either pay for the police services, or pay their entire due tax in a transparent and accountable manner.

  9. The idea that fracking companies should pay for policing of protests is just ridiculous. Take a different scenario;

    Suppose I & others take objection to our village shop selling certain magazines (or tobacco or alcohol). We are entitled to stand around with placards & hand out leaflets warning of the evils within.If the shopkeeper sets the dogs on us, or pelts us with potatoes, as a peaceful protest,we are entitled to police protection . However, if we start hurling abuse at customers & employees, block access, “slow walk” to stop deliveries etc & so effectively close close a legal business, do you seriously suggest the shopkeeper should should pay for the police to keep us under control?

    If as you claim the fracking operators do not pay their proper taxes surely the answer is to tighten up the tax laws? Not to penalise an entire industry because of some suspected bad apples.

    In the same way the law on protest needs to be reviewed to reverse ridiculous judicial decisions permitting “slow walking” to obstruct legal activities. Mr Hobson, please note.

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