A group opposed to shale gas operations in Yorkshire is calling for the removal of all references to anti-fracking protesters in counter-terrorism strategies after new documents have been revealed.
Frack Free Ryedale, which has been challenging Third Energy’s fracking plans at Kirby Misperton, said the strategies, which linked shale gas opponents to extremism, were creating a “climate of fear”.
Public documents from Yorkshire and other parts of the UK have included anti-fracking protests on lists of terrorism risk alongside armed groups such as ISIL or Da’esh and the Kurdish separatist movement, the PKK.
The documents, many of them uncovered by researcher Russell Scott, include training materials and guidance compiled by councils, police forces and schools as part of the Government’s anti-radicalisation strategy, Prevent. This was re-launched in 2011 by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary and aims to identify people who may be at risk of radicalisation or being drawn into terrorism.
North Yorkshire Police also issued a statement:
“To avoid any doubt, anti-fracking protesters are not seen as a terrorist threat by the police in North Yorkshire. On the contrary, the groups of local protesters have been nothing but peaceful and respectful of the law. Not one arrest has been made in connection with protest action associated with the issue in our area.”
And the Home Office said:
“Prevent is about safeguarding people at risk of being drawn into terrorism – support for anti-fracking is not an indicator of vulnerability.”
Despite this, Mr Scott and Spinwatch have found a questionnaire used by Richmondshire and Hambleton Councils in North Yorkshire to compile their counter terrorism local profiles this year. The questionnaire includes sections on fracking protesters, as well as groups working in Syria and Iraq, extreme right wing organisations, hunt saboteurs and the PKK.
Di Keal, a member of Frack Free Ryedale and a Ryedale District councillor, said:
“We are calling on the Government and Police to take immediate action to remove all references to anti-fracking campaigners from their own and partner organisation Prevent policies, including questionnaires and training materials.
“In addition the police need to contact all those people who have undergone Prevent training to inform them that peaceful anti-fracking campaigners are no longer the subject of special monitoring. Instead, they should be showcased as a model example of peaceful democratic campaigners.”
The questionnaire asks participants, some of whom include councillors, the following questions:
- Is there any information regarding individuals or groups who are engaged in fracking protests which have the potential to become more radical and disruptive in nature?
- Have there been any suspicious sightings around the proposed fracking areas within North Yorkshire?
- Is there any information regarding protests to be held in the North Yorkshire?
Hambleton District, which covers the area around Nothallerton, Bedale, Thirsk and Easingwold, has three hydrocarbon exploration licences. Two of them were awarded last year to INEOS and IGas.
Richmondshire District Council, which has no hydrocarbon exploration licences, has posted a video of a presentation given in July 2015 on terrorism risks to members of its scrutiny committee.
The officer leading the session, community safety officer, Gina Allen, told councillors:
“A reasonably new one, is around the fracking agenda. Extreme anti-frackers causing as much disruption as they possibly can is a potential threat going forward.”
She also asked councillors for anecdotal information, including details from social media:
“You will get an email from me December-January time saying what anecdotal information is there out there around community tension. Some of that will come from Facebook. So, if you are seeing these things happening either let me know as they are going through or let us know when we send the questionnaire out.
“We’ve got the hard stats, we’ve got the intelligence analysts who are looking at the very serious high level counter-terrorism intelligence that’s coming through but what we need to know is that anecdotal community tension information that we might not have picked up on.”
Frack Free Ryedale member, Dr Tim Thornton, a Liberal Councillor on Ryedale District Council, and a retired GP, said:
“All the people I know who oppose fracking are ordinary law-abiding residents, among them are a retired bishop, many local farmers, parents, grandparents, doctors, solicitors, and local councillors. We are concerned about the damaging effects fracking will have on our communities, health and environment.
“North Yorkshire Police have tweeted that campaigners ‘have been nothing but peaceful and respectful of the law’. The Home office have publicly agreed fracking has nothing to do with terrorism.
“It concerns me therefore that councillors and school pupils have been given a different portrayal in Prevent training sessions. This encourages a climate of fear that create barriers to listening to their politely expressed views and causes confusion about the role of facts in decision making.”
DrillOrDrop asked Richmondshire and Hambleton councils:
- What evidence was used to justify the inclusion of anti-fracking groups on the local counter-terrorism profiles
- What guidance did the council receive from the police or others on this issue to justify the inclusion of anti-fracking groups?
- Is the council reconsidering the inclusion of anti-fracking groups in the counter terrorism local profile?
- How would the council respond to the call by Frack Free Ryedale for anti-fracking groups to be removed from the local profile?
We have not received a response from either councils. We will update this post if we do.
Green Party peer, Baroness Jones, asked the government last week what procedures there are for challenging Prevent practitioners who include anti-fracking groups in their training materials.
The Home Office minister said Prevent training was kept under “continued review”. DrillOrDrop report
School guidance and fracking
Russell Scott and Spinwatch have also found evidence from another three schools which have included information or links on their websites which list anti-fracking as a type of extremism that could potentially draw children into terrorism.
- St Philip Westbrook Church of England Primary School, Warrington Link to school Prevent strategy
- Roby Park Primary School, Knowsley Link to briefing paper
- St Josephs Catholic Primary, Knowsley Links to Merseyside Police presentation on radicalisation
A primary school in Worthing, West Sussex, has since removed the reference to fracking opposition in its guidance on extremism to parents. A secondary school in Driffield apologised after parents complained that a presentation for pupils linked fracking opposition to radicalisation risks.