Anti-fracking tanker protest put police in danger, court hears


A police officer described how he and a colleague were put at risk by an anti-fracking protest on a tanker delivering to the Horse Hill oil well near Gatwick.

PC Paul Quinn, a member of Surrey Police protester removal team, was giving evidence at the trial of a group of campaigners opposed to operations at the well.

He told the court in Redhill that one of the campaigners, Ben Hewitt, had climbed on top of the tanker on 11 March this year.

PC Quinn said he and a colleague joined Mr Hewitt on the tanker roof after he refused to come down.

“This was the third person I had dealt with in this situation”, PC Quinn said

“This was the first time I had been met by such a dangerous situation where all three of us were in danger of falling.”

He said Mr Hewitt had jumped from the back of the tanker across a gap of 1.5m and landed on the roof of the articulated unit. After they spoke to him he shuffled forward so that his feet were dangling over the windscreen, PC Quinn said.

“He was 15ft from the ground with no safety barriers”, PC Quinn said. “We hauled him back to the centre of the cab”.

“The male was extremely aggressive. He was pushing. He was kicking out and he was trying to make contact.

“I had to use all my efforts to contain the male and secure myself on the roof.”

PC Quinn said he and his colleague had used climbing equipment to clip themselves to the tanker and to Mr Hewitt. If they had fallen they would not have hit the ground, he said. But they could have been impaled on the vehicle.

The court heard how the officers forced Mr Hewitt, against his will, into a safety harness. He asked to use an inhaler but PC Quinn said when they allowed him to reach for it in his pocket he tried to remove the harness.

If he went off the front of the truck he would have dragged me with him, PC Quinn said.

The court heard how the officers used a pressure point technique to subdue Mr Hewitt . PC Quinn said:

“I grabbed him by the neck and held him by his cheeks.

“Because of the situation it was the only position I could guarantee I could get enough leverage.”

“Actions went far beyond what was necessary”

Laura Collier, representing Mr Hewitt, put it to PC Quinn: “He said he was struggling to breathe.”

PC Quinn said: “He was allowed full access to his inhaler”.

Ms Collier said: “He was telling you he could not breathe”.

PC Quinn replied: “I cannot recall that”.

Ms Collier put it to PC Quinn that Mr Hewitt was worried that the ladder which the police wanted him to use to get to the ground was not secure. She said to PC Quinn:

“You were not communicating about what you were doing and that made him panic.”

“Your actions went far beyond what was necessary.”

PC Quinn replied: “This is the third person I have taken off these structures. I don’t accept what you say.”

The court also saw video evidence about another campaigner who tried to climb onto the tanker on the same day and two who locked themselves together outside the site entrance on 18 March.

All nine people on trial deny the charges against them, which include obstructing the highway, tampering with a vehicle and resisting arrest.

The prosecution offered no evidence against a tenth Horse Hill campaigner.

The case continues on Friday at Guildford Magistrates Court and is scheduled to last until Tuesday next week.

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39 replies »

  1. How anyone can justify these actions is beyond me. I think some people need to take a step back and separate the behaviour and actions from ‘the cause’. Just how far will you go in condoning this type of behaviour? When someone is killed because they are pushed off a lorry? Or because someone steps out in front of one and it can’t stop in time? Or will that be justified as ok because its less of an impact than this whole ‘horrendous fracking’ thing. Utterly ridiculous. Extremism comes in many forms and it is worrying when you see just how far down the rabbit hole some people are going.

    • Very well put, Jenny, and, ironically, every word you just wrote is applicable to our govt, this industry and its apologists – except for the fact that there will be many more people harmed. An extremist policy indeed. Try taking a look at the List of the Harmed on the website of the Pennsylvania Clean Water and Air website – I just checked it – there are, to date, in excess of 21,5000 incidents of harm to residents – and, as you say, it’s difficult to see how anyone “can condone this kind of behaviour”. Have a good day.

      • Julie – waiting for your reply?? When idiots get themselves killed interfering with, and climbing on moving trucks, they become eligible for the Darwin Award.

  2. Yes, Michael. Maybe rumours of Aunty Fracker’s death were indeed exaggerated. “Aunty Fracker ‏@Aunty__Fracker Jul 13
    I am sorry to announce the death of @Aunty_Fracker She’d been in decline for some months but finally dissolved in her own bile in 31st May” Nighty night.

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