Horse Hill protest policing was “negligent” and an “abject failure”, court told


The barrister for a group of anti-fracking campaigners on trial for protests outside the Horse Hill oil site near Gatwick said there was “an abject failure” of policing.

Summing at the end of the five-day case, Laura Collier said the campaigners felt threatened by delivery drivers who, she said, drove aggressively and dangerously on their way to site. Ms Collier said:

“The police gave no protection to the protesters who believed they were acting lawfully.”

The court had heard that the campaigners sought to delay lorries by walking slowly in front of them.

“In their minds slow walking lorries is a lawful activity. There is an obligation on the police to facilitate protest”, Ms Collier said.

She said of the campaigners:

“They felt threatened. They felt in danger. They were assaulted by a driver. There was an abject failure of police who witnessed this first hand to take action about the standard of driving that was so appalling that it must have been criminal.

“Even a police officer was hit by a driver and nothing happened.

“There were no convictions [of the delivery drivers] – but that is the point. The police were doing nothing about it.”

The trial at Redhill in Surrey followed protests outside Horse Hill during flow testing in February and March this year. The court heard evidence that campaigners had carried out direct actions including climbing onto delivery vehicles and taking part in lock-on protests. They deny all the charges which included tampering with a vehicle, obstructing the highway, resisting arrest and criminal damage.

“They acted on the belief that they have a voice”

Ms Collier said:

“These men and women have come together to put themselves in jeopardy of criminal convictions for what they believe to be right. They acted on the belief that they have a voice.

“In the British tradition they took direct action.

“None of them sought to get on vehicles. None sought to do anything but slow walk lorries 0.7 miles [along Horse Hill]. That is all that they set out to do.”

She said one of her clients had slow-walked lorries 250 times without incident.

“They acted peacefully. None of them sought disorder. They only sought to slow walk lorries.

“But due to the combination of aggressive driving and negligent policing it was not safe to do that. Report after report was made to the police and the police showed no interest in protecting them at all.

“These men and women don’t have the money to buy influence, to lobby politicians. They make use of the only power they have: to take to the streets.

“It goes to the reasonableness and proportionality of the decisions that they took in the circumstances in which they found themselves in February and March.”

Why put themselves in great danger?

Jonathan Edwards, summing up for the prosecution, questioned the campaigners’ fear of the delivery driving:

“If they were as worried as they say they were, you might expect them to avoid putting themselves in great danger by placing themselves in the road or on top of vehicles.

“There is no evidence of injury from driving or arrests or prosecutions. The defendants put themselves deliberately in the road in close proximity of large vehicles, which would inevitably create a risk of contact, and then a complaint is made that there is contact.”

He continued:

“There must be limited visibility from the [lorry] cab and there cannot be a complete abdication of responsibility from people walking in the road with the intention of slowing them down.”

Mr Edwards said the company operating the site, Horse Hill Developments Ltd, and its contractors were conducting a lawful business. He said:

“One of the aims of the protesters was to impede that lawful business by disrupting vehicle movements to and from the site.

“The police are not there to facilitate unfettered access to protest. They are there to maintain order and safety and uphold the law. The circumstances vary and that requires a varying approach by the police.”

He said the campaigners accused of tampering with vehicles were on the vehicles. “These vehicles were on the highway. The only issue is whether they [the campaigners] had a reason to do it.”

On the obstruction charges, he said: “The defendants were on the road, including that area outside the site entrance, and in doing so they were obstructing the free passage along that highway to some degree.”

“The police jumped in our faces immediately”

Earlier today, two campaigners gave evidence of why they locked themselves together through a piece of concrete at the entrance to the site.

One of them, Kim Turner, said:

“Slow walking was very difficult. The police jumped in our faces immediately. I was quite surprised and shaken at the way they were shutting it down.

“I had become more and more frustrated. I found the policing was restrictive and aggressive and as soon as you walked you were issued with warnings. It was really bad. You were not able to make your protest and walk a lorry and give your reasons why you opposed the drilling.

“I had a strong feeling that I wanted to make a protest in a different way. I had not resolved what but I wanted to get the message out.”

She said she was quickly arrested after the lock-on started. A protester removal team cut her out of the concrete.

“Why didn’t you engage with the police?”

Asked by Mr Edwards why she hadn’t tried to engage with the police she said:

“I don’t think that was possible.

“I started to say something about why we were there but the policeman was talking over me so I could not make my statement to my friend’s camera. My impression was that we were going to be arrested.”

Mr Edwards asked: “Why couldn’t you make that protest on the side of the entrance?”

Ms Turner replied: “You would not get any attention. You would not be able to make a protest. It would not be a protest.”

Lack of communciation

The other campaigner in the lock-on, Daniel White, also complained about a lack of communication from the police.

“All they wanted to do was give us the five step appeal. They were trying to get us off the road as soon as possible. They were putting their lives and our lives and other road users at risk.”

Mr Edwards asked whether he had tried to negotiate with the police over the length of the protest.

No, said Mr White.

“Do you accept the location was dangerous?”, Mr Edwards asked.

“Not particularly, no”, Mr White said.

Mr Edwards put it to him: “It was quite a busy road”.

Mr White replied: “There was free flowing traffic at all times.”

“Did you think about alternatives?”, Mr Edwards asked.

Mr White replied: “What else can you do. We tried slow walking and we got aggressively assaulted by lorries. This is the next step.”

Susan Bryant, for Ms Turner, said there was a second entrance to the site that could have been used in an emergency. A lorry was held inside the site for two hours but this was not known to Ms Turner.

Michael Sprack for Mr White said there was insufficient evidence of the impact of the lock-on to HHDL or its contractors.

  • The district judge, Andrew Vickers, will give his verdicts at 12 noon on Monday 25 July at South East Surrey Magistrates Court in Redhill.

DrillOrDrop always welcomes comments on posts. In order to keep the comments area safe and legal, DrillOrDrop has a new commenting policy which you can read here.

22 replies »

  1. I wonder why the protestors don’t rail against something more concerning..

    The price of gas rose 29% over the second quarter while wholesale electricity rose 25%. So many more working class folk poentially driven into fuel poverty as these rises feed through into domestic bills. Next winter the energy needs of the country rely increasingly on imported liquified natural gas in tanker ships from the Middle East. Any serious geopolitical disruption there and these supplies may be under threat. We have a 6% gas storage reserve, Germany and France have a 25% reserve.

    What’s the balance between concern about climate change and concern about short to medium term UK supply threats?

    • Lets hope the Government quickly see sense and reduces the crippling tax regime on the North Sea. Then investment will happen, production will increase, and thousands of skilled workers will get their jobs back. As the gas energy analysts told the House of Lords Energy Select Committee “shale gas cannot meet our base fuel needs” and “The suggestion that shale gas can save us from brown outs is frankly laughable” and ” The real prize to go for is offshore”
      I presume these experts know more than you and me.

      • Of course shale gas on it’s own won’t save us from brown outs but I’m hoping it might make a contribution. . Actually we won’t know what contribution shale can make until we actually do some exploring. Maybe that was the situation when the North Sea was just beginning. I’m told by a petroleum geologist that drilling is the acid test, you can have all the positive 3D seiesmic, estimates of organic content, porosity etc that you like and still drill a dry well. John, seems like you see North Sea and Onshore as somehow opponents, surely they could each make their own contribution.

        • Upgrade to Portland Oil in Place at Horse Hill. UK Oil & Gas Investments PLC announces a new petrophysical analysis by Nutech. This, it says, demonstrates a threefold increase in calculated total oil in place per square at the Horse Hill well in the Upper Portland. The analysis upgrades the oil in place from 7.7 million barrels (MMbbl) to 22.9 MMbbl per square mile – a 200% increase.

          Not shale gas but still good news for the UK. The issue is recovery factor which may be reasonable based on the test rates.

          John is pro North Sea as we all are, but not keen on onshore – is this due to a potential site near where you live John? If so, I can understand your personal position.

          • There is no site near my house.
            My stance on fracking is very simple. I believe climate change is the biggest threat to humanity. I believe climate change will cause millions to die unnecessarily through our reliance on fossil fuel and I believe it will cause mass migration of our species. That reliance can be reduced dramatically. I believe this country and all those countries who are able to should look at replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy as fast as possible. I believe that would be the most logical approach to global energy needs and pave the way to help reduce the effects of climate change.I am fully aware of the other reasons for climate change.
            That said we need fossil fuel whilst we move onto a mainly renewable future. We have had for decades our own home grown gas source. The North Sea. We have pipelines to Norway which supply a majority of our shortfall. We would not need to import the quantities we do at present if the offshore tax regime was dropped to make it reasonable for the offshore to operate. We also need to learn to use less.
            There is absolutely no need to start a new type of fossil fuel industry which would amount to heavy industrialisation of the countryside, provable acceleration of climate change, and a blatantly obvious risk to health to those living a few hundred metres from a commercial £333,000,000 highly explosive site dealing constantly with toxic liquids and gases.
            Shale gas is not only not wanted it is also not needed.

            • Well John:

              Shale gas will only displace imported gas / declining North Sea gas so no change on the climate change front although imported gas will have higher fugitive emissions (which I think are irrelevant and overstated, and now we are hearing that methane is not nearly as bad as we were being told earlier). I agree that we should produce more from the North Sea if it is cost competitive. And I think you agree with the National Grid that gas will be a major part of all scenarios until at least 2040.

              “blatantly obvious risk to health to those living a few hundred metres from a commercial £333,000,000 highly explosive site dealing constantly with toxic liquids and gases”

              What about those workers in Norway on Troll, the UK platforms, particularly those 1960’s and ’70s platforms in the Southern North Sea and those TCNs who slaeve away and live on top of gas platforms / wells including HPHT Khuff sour gas wells with 2.5% – 25% H2S? They don’t live close by, they live directly on top of. And of course in the UK and Norway at least they are very healthy and safe.

              So why would local residents living a few hundred meters from a low pressure shale gas well site be exposed to any more danger?

              Heavy industrialisation of the countryside – depends on your point of view. What about coal mines steel works, factories, textile mills, wind farms, BAE at Wharton……. Our countryside is man made, currently by farmers who are destroying it on a gigantic scale.

              By the way, what is the £333,000,000 supposed to relate to? Is this the weekly tax take from a successful onshore shale gas industry?

  2. I am satisfied that the starting of an unconventional shale gas Industry which requires constant drilling and fracking to exist would have a far greater impact on climate change than maximising our well established offshore industry whilst quickly ramping up our renewable capability.

    Odd comparison between those who choose to work in the Industry and get paid to take the risks with people living in the countryside having a site forced upon them. Not really the same now is it?

    As for your weekly tax take. Even with the huge tax incentives offered, at present it costs more to extract than you could possibly sell it for. If you disagree please post the costs of European shale production (available from EY, Bloomberg,Centrica, and others) and post the current wholesale price and prove how it makes money.(don,t forget to include the set up costs,see next)

    The £333,000,000 is how much it would cost to bring 1 multi well pad online.You would see an awful lot of industrial scale work to spend that sort of money. Type of thing that you think sits comfortably in British greenbelt. I think you are a voice in the wilderness on that one.

    • Few extra thoughts.When you put up the figures showing how much money shale could make for the country don’t forget the £333,000,000 was the cost in 2014. Since then the Industry has stated green completion, so you need to add that cost on
      Also please explain why energy analysts Gundi Royle have got it all wrong when they say shale gas can not make money. I am surprised they got through a 35 year career spouting untruths.

  3. We shall have to agree to disagree on the climate change angle. I am satisfied that the starting of an unconventional shale gas Industry with all associated infrastructure would have serious consequences on emissions compared to maximising our offshore Industry whilst speeding up renewables.
    People choose to work on rigs and get paid to take the risks. Not really the same as having a site next to your home that you do not want.

  4. John – the point about the people working in the industry is that they do not get ill or sick. The health of North Sea workers (there was a big study done in Norway) is fine. Health is one of the issues you (and most antis) highlight.

    The £333,000,000 cost of a wellpad and the economics of shale gas in UK are guestimates. There is not sufficient information on reserves yet. However, if you (and all the others who quote these numbers) are correct then there will be no shale gas industry in the UK. It has to be competitive on price as you know. So why worry about it? We do not know recovery factors, reserves, productivity etc. One thing is for certain, well costs will drop dramatically as more wells are drilled – this is always the case. The only well flow rate information is from the Cuadrilla well – I have heard through industry sources that the rate exceeded expectations. But as far as I know only Cuadrilla and DECC have the detailed information.

    Renewables are grinding to a halt because we are reaching capacity for the technology available. Hopefully we will solve the storage problem, fussion etc. one day. But all the National Grid forecasts (July report) show we will remain dependent on gas for a large part of our electricity and most of our heating until at least 2040.

    The point about impacts on local residents from a noise / visual / traffic standpoint are valid – these addressed by the planning system.

    Why not drill and test a few shale gas exploration wells to establish reserves etc. Afterall full scale development is unlikely to proceed as the reserves may not be there, costs may be too high if your predictors are correct, and the planning system most likely will prohibit development.

    • Lets look a little deeper at the facts that we do know about shale gas prices in Europe.

      EY (promoters of the Industry) have got it to the pound how much a site would cost. £333,000,000 (plus recent agreed extras like Green Completion)

      Click to access EY-Getting-ready-for-UK-shale-gas-April-2014.pdf

      EY (promoters of the Industry) state how much it will cost to extract European Shale

      Between 53p and 79p per therm (that was in 2013 when the Industry thought it could get in under the Radar saving millions by not having to spend on “Gold Standards” or the cost of delays) It would cost a whole lot more now.

      Do tell where the profit is when considered against the wholesale value which could soon be as low as 20p per therm

      You could suggest that oil and gas prices will soar but we all know that OPEC will not let US take their market share again. They may increase slightly to maximise OPEC profits but will drop the minute the US pick up their fracking equipment and try to re enter the market.

      No guesstimates. just facts and figures from the Industry and common sense.

      Is that the thundering sound of herds of buffalo or is it the sound of gull able small time investors realising they have been played , cutting their losses, and making a run for it

      • John – thanks for the links. Nothing new though. EY are trying to promote a business case for UK investment in manufacturing etc. The numbers may or may not be right. We shall see. It is more likely a lot of the equipment will be leased. Can small time investors buy shares in Cuadrilla? Are they listed anywhere? I don’y know and do not intend to invest in them. I-Gas shares are available, not sure about the others.

        Greenpeace are anti everything to do with carbon. Prices are low, so I repeat myself yet again, if it is not economic it will not happen.

        I think we have discussed this to death – you claim it is too expensive, I claim we don’y know yet. You claim North Sea / imports are better and lower impact on climate change, I disagree. Lets leave it at that.

        We can review all this after a few wells are drilled and tested and companies have a better idea of reserves and economics.

    • Do not get ill or sick? Do some research please. I know someone who lost her husband young, who would disagree with you.b

      • Example linked below:

        I have worked in the upstream industry, onshore , offshore, rig site, process plants, fracking etc. for 30 plus years and am healthy. I do not know of any colleagues who I have worked with in the industry who have become ill / died due to oil and gas drilling and production processes, hydrocarbons, chemicals. There were some issues with asbestos and exposure to diesel 30 years ago when it was used as a drilling fluid base fluid (not used for a very long time now). The only serious injuries / deaths that I recall in operations I worked in were caused by failure of lifting appliances, road traffic accidents (biggest onshore risk) , gunfire / landmines (country specific issues) and helicopter crashes.

        The other risk is explosion like Piper Alpha / Macondo. Not likely in an onshore shale gas development.

        Sorry to hear about your friends loss.

  5. Hi Paul Tresto,
    While I agree with your argument that if shale is so uneconomical then it wont happen and I am not sure why the anti-shale keep banging on that shale is expensive and we should explore it. I am a little bit sceptical about the industry quote about ‘exceeding expectation’. Of course they want their potential investor to think it is exceeding expectation. There is no independent assessment of the flow rate like Nutech used by Horse Hill well of UKOG. If it is so good why Caudrilla and DECC wont tell us.

    • TW – it is quite normal for Oil and Gas companies to keep well test information confidential, particularly if there is unlicensed area around their block. This allows them to try and get other prospective areas which competitors are unsure of. It used to be called tight hole. I expect Cuadrilla have had 3rd party assessment but this too is confidential. However I do not know for sure why the test rates are not in the public domain. You could be right and the rates were not good. But why would they then continue their program, appeal refused sites and pick up more blocks? Horse Hill rates are published because the company there needas to raise money.

      • You beat me to it Paul, your summation that is.

        Cuadrilla appear to be damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. If they release the well test information they would likely be accused of playing the ramping up card, and if they don’t, they would likely be accused of playing the their hiding something card.

        Of course it could be that DECC have stipulated no information in the public domain until approval is signed sealed and delivered.

        As you say Paul, the mere fact that Cuadrilla are still playing in this game must indicate the figures are worth the pain they are going through. Of course as we all know, there is only one way of finding out what’s down there and that’s by getting a drill bit in the ground.

          • John Powney. Sorry but I find your positions are quite interesting. You use all environmental climate change health risks as well as economic arguments to oppose shale and yet you call for support of fossil fuel if it comes from offshore. I would have thought the same argument can be applied for any things to do with fossil fuels.

      • Thanks for the explanation. I would have thought all the oil majors would jump on the UK shale band wagon if they see the potential Caudrilla claimed as credible but they are not so there must be something not right in this area. Having shale would allow these companies to have a bit of leeway as a swing producers to maintain their production number and market share while holding of the bigger project until price is recovered. At this current oil prices no way new big offshore project with huge drilling rig cost would go ahead and without shale and new project they can’t maintain their production output to maintain their market share and revenue. Just my simple thinking from a non expert point of view.

        • TW – it is unlikely that majors with downstream assetts will join at this stage if at any stage. They don’t want protesters at their petrol stations etc. Also majors have a habit of letting small companies take the risk (look at Maersk in Kenya) and buy in at a later date when reserves are proven. They like to buy proven reserves.

        • TW Centrica are in, “if”, a small word with a big meaning but if the oil price wasn’t where it currently is then other majors would be sniffing around for sure.

          Once proven reserve figures are known it’ll be a different ball game. The minnows like Cuadrilla and the like will be gone.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s