Calls for independent review of “confrontational” policing at anti-fracking protests



Policing at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site, Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, 1 March 2017. Photo: Peter Yankowski

Large numbers of police are using aggressive tactics to make it hard for people to protest against fracking, according to a report published today.

171120 netpol reportThe report’s authors, the police monitoring group, Netpol, have called for an external review of policing at anti-fracking protests in Lancashire and an assessment of nationwide policy.

Reaction to the report from police and campaigners

Netpol said:

“We have monitored increasingly confrontational and violent tactics against protesters, efforts to deliberately stifle the effectiveness of their protests and a failure to listen and respond to growing local concerns.

“The likely result is a long-term legacy of resentment and distrust that will last long after protests are over.

“This is why we believe a genuinely independent and external review of Lancashire’s policing operation is now essential.”

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Policing at Preston New Road, 20 July 2017. Photo: DrillOrDrop


Confrontation outside Cuadrilla contractor, A E Yates, in Bolton, 14 February 2017. Photo: Peter Yankowski

The Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, who is due to launch the report later today outside Cuadrilla’s Lancashire shale gas site, supported Netpol’s calls. He said:

“An authoritarian crackdown on British citizens’ right to protest will not squash fracking opposition.”

Cuadrilla’s site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, has seen protests since work began in January 2017. Up to the end of September, there had been 320 arrests and 295 charges.

Since September there have been ongoing protests at Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire, where there were 66 arrests and 59 charges. Protesters have also taken action this year outside oil sites in West Sussex and Surrey.

“Attempt to neutralise political impact of protest”

The Netpol report, titled Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime (pdf file), concluded:

“UK policing has sought in 2017 to neutralise the political impact of anti-fracking protests.”

It said the onshore oil and gas industry had lobbied for these tactics. Large numbers of people were being criminalised by a “zero-tolerance approach to disruption”, it said.

The report also concluded that outsiders were being blamed by senior officers and Police and Crime Commissioners for the scale of the protests. Police and local authorities had labelled anti-fracking campaigners as a potential extremist threat.

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Policing at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, 9 October 2017. Photo: Still from video

In Lancashire, Netpol said it had observed evidence of police officers pushing people into hedges, knocking campaigners unconscious, dragging older people across the road and pushing others into traffic.

The report said:

“There have been growing allegations this year of officers making unlawful or incomprehensible arrests.

“One consequence of their rising number, the majority for obstructing the highway, has been to severely restrict the options for civil disobedience, particularly the tactic of ‘slow-walking’ delivery lorries.

At Kirby Misperton, in North Yorkshire, Netpol said it had heard testimony that police were “ready to contain, assault or arrest any demonstrator for the slightest infringements”.

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Policing at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire, 9 October 2017. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Faced with this zero-tolerance policing, Netpol said:

“Campaigners have often chosen more obstructive direct action methods, such as ‘lock-ons’ or climbing onto lorries.

“Many [campaigners] seem to have made the judgement that, if they face arrest anyway, it might as well result from taking part in an action that is effective.”

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Near Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton site, 25 October 2017. Photo: Kirby Misperton Protection Camp

National review

Netpol said guidance developed in 2015 was still being used for decision-making and planning at anti-fracking protests. The group had called for a review of the policy by the National Police Chiefs Council. It said:

“The review must begin immediately – and the NPCC must allow external stakeholders with knowledge and experience of the policing of anti-fracking protests, including Netpol, to contribute to it.”

Police and Crime Commissioners

Netpol said the elected Police and Crime Commissioners were concentrating too much on the costs of policing anti-fracking protests and failing to reflect fully local concerns. The report said:

“Police and Crime Commissioners have a responsibility to hold their local forces to account and ensure the police are answerable to the communities they serve. This is even more important in communities where oil or gas exploration has been emphatically rejected.

“Concerns about public confidence costs of policing protests are just as important as financial costs.”


171025 Woodsetts siteNetpol also raised concerns about an injunction sought by INEOS in July and currently awaiting a decision by the High Court.

The interim injunction covers a large geographic area, including sites for which planning permission has not yet been granted. It seeks to prevent “persons unknown” from conduct that might constitute harassment against INEOS, its supplies or contractors or from committing offences including obstruction of the highway.

Netpol said if the injunction is made permanent other fracking companies could take out further pre-emptive injunctions.

“It may also significantly restrict even further the ability of campaigners to take part in civil disobedience or, indeed, any form of effective protest.”

“Bully boy tactics”

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Keith Taylor at Kirby Misperton, 9 October 2017. Photo: Keith Taylor

Mr Taylor, MEP for south east England, said the government had failed to persuade people to accept fracking in the UK:

“It is only reasonable then that a coalition of climate activists and ignored local residents have taken to the streets to protest against the climate-destructive process.

“What is entirely unreasonable, however, is the heavy-handed, disproportionate and even violent police and private security operations revealed by Netpol’s latest report.”

Mr Taylor was present outside the Kirby Misperton site when police moved Jackie Brookes, who was serving tea to protesters, away from the gate.

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Jackie Brookes, moved by police from outside the Third Energy site at Kirby Misperton, 9 October 2017. Photo: Kirby Misperton Protection Camp

He said:

“The bully boy tactics and disproportionate policing I’ve witnessed first-hand, including the shocking treatment of Jackie Brookes the 79-year old ‘tea lady’ from Kirby Misperton, is why I continue to support Netpol’s call for an urgent and independent review of the policing of fracking protests.”

  • The formal launch of the report is due at 2pm, outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton, near Blackpool.
  • Forces policing anti-fracking protesters have repeatedly said they take a neutral stand between companies and campaigners. DrillOrDrop will put the Netpol allegations to senior officers and the Police and Crime Commissioners in Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Sussex and Surrey and report on their responses.

Reaction to the report from police and campaigners

20 replies »

  1. Thanks Ruth, this is perhaps the most important and revealing report yet of the police actions in respect to fracking protests.

    That of police aggression and intimidation towards protesters, whilst simultaneously presenting a convenient “blind eye” towards the operators actions and their hired “security” even when they openly and violently break the law with apparent immunity themselves on public property where they have no valid jurisdiction.

    We have however seen no balance whatsoever in the equivalent police attitude towards the operators as is stringently actioned against protesters.

    That is clear unbalanced discrimination and that has no place in any police activity anywhere.

    This is unacceptable for a publically funded civil police force, who should demonstrably have balance and discretion at the heart of all their activities.

    We can only hope that this report will not disappear without trace into the now familiar black hole of government inaction regarding anything to do with the abject failings related to the fracking debacle.

    What it illustrates however is gross protectionism and reverse discrimination towards this unwelcome and unwanted privateer industrial invasion of our countryside. As if they have priority above the law.

    The time for a return to a balanced fair and demonstrably ethical behaviour by the police is now.

    Much damage has all ready been done to police public relations because of this clear and present descent towards a “bully boy” police state of mind.

    That must end now and it is vital to return to a balanced trustworthy publically funded and publically accountable police force to be clearly demonstrated to all.

    How long it will take before some trust is recovered to the now publically discredited police, is now in their hands and those of their internal and external regulators.

    There is one more aspect to this, and that is, if because of this, the police are encouraged to withdraw altogether from their legal responsibilities towards policing fracking activities, will we then see a private army spring up with powers of arrest in their place?

    That is a dark dismal totalitarian road that must never ever be allowed in this country.

  2. What absolute rubbish. They have it completely back to front. the increased police presence is entirely due to the increasingly confrontational antics of the protesters. Just look at your headline photo. Who is being aggressive there? it’s certainly not the police. Local residents have really had enough of these protesters disrupting their lives. What gives the protesters any right to obstruct legally sanctioned activities in any event? Have they not noticed that we live in a democracy and that the elected government has not outlawed this safe process. They are free to vote for the opposition which I believe is no anti-fracking. What they are not free to do is to try and subvert the democratic institutions of this country just because they feel particularly strongly about this subject and which most people couldn’t really care less about.

  3. David

    Just because people vote Conservative, it DOES NOT mean they support Fracking.
    In our Democracy we choose our candidates on a whole range of policies, NOT just Fracking..

    I take note that you Cherry Pick one still photograph from the article to support YOUR opinion on who is looking aggressive.
    OR were you referring to the TEA LADY as an aggressive looking thug ?????

    I very much look forward to viewing the supporting evidence to substantiate your claims in which you state , quote, ” Local residents have really had enough ” and ” most people couldn’t really care less about.”


    [Edited at poster’s request]

  4. You mean the local residents who have just trousered the first payout from Cuadrilla, Jack? I think they were last seen and heard laughing all the way to Barclays.(Remember, they were going to reject the “bribes”? That went well.)

    • LET’S SEE how many actually CASH these cheques .. Then and ONLY then will I believe the numbers quoted by Cuadrilla .

      That being said , I had heard from a travel agent that there had been a sharp spike in holiday enquiries from the PNR area, for luxury holiday destinations like Monaco, the Seychelles and Las Vegas.

      £150, whatever will these peope do with such money ??

      I agree Martin , there is a lot of laughing.

  5. Except it wasn’t £150 for some was it Jack? Which you know, but do you think others do not?

    If you want to misrepresent the actual amounts it is your choice. The actual amounts are in the public domain, the structure of the subsequent funding is in the public domain and the proposals reference the returns that could accrue if production develops is in the public domain.

    Once fracking commences and if gas is produced, do you really think the general public will ignore the financial pluses and simply follow the previous scaremongering? They have been fed one side so far. If fracking starts to work the other side will be more fully examined. People will look for real figures and if they observe some being put forward by the antis which are inaccurate they will draw their own conclusions.

    • 29 households were offered £ 2070, they’ve hardly hit the big time .

      As we sit at opposite sides of the table regarding the fracking debate. I will therefore expect you to hold your cards close to your chest regarding your TRUE opinions on the financial payouts, but hey , come on Martin ,£2070 is small fry when you consider what these 29 homeowners will have to put up with when taking in to account possible property value devaluation, possible buildings isurance difficulties , possible health issues and certain disruption.

  6. Lol what a good little laugh this article gave me over my morning coffee.
    It’s very satisfying seeing this lot put back in line. I have a sneaky suspicion they could do with a bit more structure in their normal life.
    Keep up the good work officers you have the nations backing.

  7. Jack-well you have moved a little, but you know that £2070 is an INITIAL payment, and there will be further community payments and further household payments for the other well, and further payments if production starts etc. etc.

    As I have said earlier, Estate Agents create a premium for property within certain school catchment areas. It is just as possible, rather than your doom laden scenario, that property may actually attract a similar premium within fracking areas. (Not accepted by FOE I know, but I’m afraid their “claims” are not that well substantiated.) Buy a house with an inbuilt income stream-do local residents close to Sellafield get the same?

  8. Hello Martin, yes I’m aware of the ” possible ” extra payments , but please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Isn’t that linked to the profitability of the Wells and an almost endless , ongoing expansion of fracking sites across the country… ( one fracking company talked about a figure of 3000 and that’s only one company )

    As far as profits go, chasing gold at the end of rainbow maybe easier . You only have to look at the dire situation in the US, with endles industry bankruptcies and that’s in a country with very little regulation…. Over here in the UK the regulation costs will be eye watering … Will there ever be any profits to share ??

    In our small, densely populated country , can you really see the industalisation of our communities really ever happening/becoming acceptable.

    As far as property values go , the simple question is this …. If you had two identical properties, one close to a fracking site and one not, which one do you think the general public would choose ??
    Speaking for myself, yes I MAY consider living close to a fracking site, if the property was at an almost give away price . ( MAYBE )

  9. Err, no Jack. Initially it is per well, and there are two planned at PNR. What I am unsure about is if they progress to octopus wells, if that is one or eight plus? I don’t think there is any link to endless expansion. There will be monies on a localised basis, and yes, there will be a national fund, but I suspect that will be based on output rather than numbers. Octopus wells could avoid industrialisation of our communities, as you put it (see Wytch Farm.)

    I can understand some disliking the construction that goes with a fracking site, but then most are against a new housing development next door. Once it is completed then it is a different matter. Currently, it will be the presence and activities of the antis reducing property values, yet you don’t seem to see the need for injunctions to prevent that?

    I can think of neighbouring industrial sites a great deal more concerning in terms of property values, yet such sites rarely offer any financial support to neighbours.

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