Campaigners in North Yorkshire have accused Third Energy, its security company and local police of attempting to “smear” opponents of fracking in statements about the alleged poisoning of a guard dog.
The incident happened in January 2018 when a dog used by security staff at Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton fracking site reportedly collapsed after eating pellets thrown over the security fence.
Two people, who had been protesting about Third Energy’s fracking plans, were arrested, one on suspicion of administering poison to an animal and both on suspicion of causing criminal damage to an animal.
But a recent response to a Freedom of Information request has raised questions about what happened. The response includes a summary of a vet’s report about the examination of the guard dog:
“Found it bright and alert. Heart rate normal as was temperature. No swellings round neck, no dehydration. No concerns but kept in as a precaution. Given activated charcoal along with food.”
The response said a blood test was taken but
“Nothing showed regards poisoning”.
Kirby Misperton Protection Camp, which has now closed, said today statements made about the incident had inevitably prejudiced the public against innocent people.
“Malicious and dangerous act”
At the time of the incident, Third Energy’s chief operating officer, Alan Linn, linked it to anti-frackng protests. He told Minster FM:
“This malicious and dangerous act has resulted in a dog collapsing and being rushed to a vet to receive emergency treatment.”
Derek Laird, managing director of Next Level Security Services (NLSS), Third Energy’s security contractor, told local media he was “particularly disturbed by the incident”. He said:
“Narla [the guard dog] collapsed and her heart stopped temporarily, she was rushed to the vets were she underwent emergency surgery and is now heavily sedated.
“This dog could have died and it is only thanks to the skill of the veterinary staff that she is alive today.”
North Yorkshire Police said in a press release:
“Police were informed that a number of pellets had been thrown over the fence into the hydraulic fracturing site yesterday morning. A guard dog at the site had eaten some of the pellets, been sick and collapsed. The dog was taken to a vet for treatment.”
The two people arrested were ordered to stay away from the area around the site gates.
The incident was widely reported in the mainstream and social media. The local MP, Kevin Hollinrake, tweeted the BBC report:
In March 2018, North Yorkshire Police updated its press release to say:
“Two men arrested following an incident in which a guard dog became ill at Kirby Misperton will face no further action.
“The dog made a full recovery.
“Due to insufficient evidence, no further police action will be taken in relation to the incident.”
“Public prejudiced against innocent people”
A spokesperson from the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp said today:
“The revelations of the Freedom of Information Response point to a deliberate attempt to smear the peaceful campaigners by the fracking company, their security contractors and North Yorkshire Police.
“Each repeatedly and emphatically suggested that individuals were guilty of a fabricated crime so heinous that the public was inevitably prejudiced against innocent people.
“Despite the fact that the police were in possession of a veterinary report stating that ‘nothing showed towards poisoning’, they waited 2 months before dropping the bogus charges.”
Third Energy told DrillOrDrop:
“Third Energy is relieved that a security dog, working at its site in Kirby Misperton, made a full recovery following emergency treatment in early January 2018. The dog had vomited and collapsed at the site after eating pellets thrown over the security fence. The North Yorkshire Police hold the relevant CCTV recordings from the day.”
North Yorkshire Police declined to comment.
Petition against protests
The Thirsk and Malton MP, Kevin Hollinrake, whose constituency includes Kirby Misperton, has handed a petition with more than 650 signatures to the Policing Minister, Nick Hurd.
The petition, organised by Ryedale Against Anti-Social Protesters, raises concerns over what the signatories describe as “the recent disruptive behaviour of some of the anti-fracking protesters in the Kirby Misperton area”.
Mr Hollinrake said:
“The petitioners are concerned about the negative impact fracking protests have had in the area for which I do have some sympathy.
“It is absolutely proper that people should have the right to protest but residents should also be able to go about their daily business – go to work, take their children to school or attend doctor’s appointments without fear of intimidation.”
A statement from Frack Free Ryedale and Kirby Misperton Protection Camp said:
“It is interesting to see that our MP is so selective in listening to the voices of his constituents. He appears to be listening to 650 people, whilst ignoring the views of so many more – namely the 4,375 individuals, groups and organisations, as well as the town and village councils – who objected to the planning application to frack in Ryedale.
“As a result of being ignored local people took the only action left open to them; to protest publicly.
“The Government is making moves to allow the shale gas industry to drill, lay well pads and build associated infrastructure without any consultation with local communities or the planning process. This is an outrageous assault on democracy.”