Updated: Report corrected after falsely accusing anti-fracking campaigners of “grooming” 14-year-old boy


Anti-fracking rally in Manchester in November 2016. Photo: DrillOrDrop

  • Update 29/8/2018: See section headed Swapping fracking at the bottom of this post.

A report published today on social cohesion in Greater Manchester has been rewritten this evening after it emerged that a case study falsely accused anti-fracking activists of “grooming” a 14-year-old boy.

The first version of the report, commissioned after the Manchester Arena bombing, said the boy was referred to Channel, part of the government’s anti-extremist Prevent programme. His school was said to have been concerned about what were described as his “extreme beliefs” around fracking.

The boy, named Aaron, was said to have been targeted aggressively via social media after signing an online petition. The case study said he was encouraged to participate in local protests and was on “the periphery of engaging in criminal behaviour”. He engaged with local activists through the dark web, it added.

180730 A Shared Future 1

Paragraph from version 1 of the report, p89

But this evening, a revised version of the 124-page report, titled A Shared Future, has removed all reference to anti-fracking campaigners.

180730 A Shared Future 2

Revised version of the paragraph

A statement from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said:

“The A Shared Future report contains a number of case studies where some details have been changed to protect the identities of those involved. This is standard practice where sensitive information is being used in a report.

“However, in one of these case studies – Case Study J – a factual detail has been altered which should not have been.

“The case study mistakenly said that concerns were raised around fracking. They were actually raised around a form of environmental extremism – but it had nothing to do with fracking.

“Although this change was made with the good intention of protecting the individual’s identity, ultimately if was the wrong thing to do. We apologise for this error.

“Because of a genuine fear that this vulnerable child cold be identified, we cannot give more specific details about the type of extremism.”

The report, commissioned by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, was designed to improve social cohesion across the region. The conclusion included a recommendation to submit it as the Greater Manchester response to the Government’s Green Paper consultation on the Integrated Communities Strategy.

The Green Party peer, Baroness Jones, told The Guardian:

“To potentially drag the name of fracking activists through the mud like this is totally unacceptable. We should not stand by and watch while environmental campaigners are discredited in this way.

“Disguising the identity of a vulnerable young person and ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place is of course very important, but we must also make sure we are not wrongly implicating activists in this fashion.”

Anti-fracking campaigners reacted angrily in 2016 when opposition to fracking was listed alongside terrorist organisations, including the IRA, Al Quaeda, the PKK and ISIL, in official counter-extremism documents.

The police monitoring group, Netpol, recently won a case in its challenge to establish how many anti-fracking campaigners have been referred to Channel. Five police forces refused to respond to a question asked in Freedom of Information requests, citing “national security”.

But in June, a tribunal ruled that police could not use this reason and ordered the police forces to respond to the requests. Netpol said today that it was still waiting.

Swapping fracking

180824 Manchester report foi

A Freedom of Information request has revealed some details of how the case study falsely accused anti-fracking activists of “grooming” the teenager.

According to correspondence released in response, the author of the report (name redacted) was concerned that the original case study might identify the teenager.

Eleven days before the report was released, the author, employed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, contacted someone (name also redacted) who knew the teenager and asked for advice.

The contact replied the following day:

“People working in [redacted] could easily work out who this is as it was such an unusual – [redacted].

“I wonder if the subject matter being changed might help. [redacted]

“Would it work to changing it to something like ‘anti-fracking’ or something like that? The methodologies of grooming and being ‘pulled into that world etc would be the same but it would be harder for someone reading it to make the connection to the real case of both the [redacted] matter were different.”

The report author replied within seven minutes with a new version of the case study. The author wrote:

“Thank you for your quick response. I completely share your concerns. Your idea around changing the motivation is a good one – I have changed to anti-fracking (please see below), what are your thoughts on the edit?”

Within 16 minutes the contact replied:

“Yes that feels more comfortable and less identifiable.”

The contact suggested another change to the case study text, suggesting that the teenager became known to activists by attending a local protest or signing a petition”.

The FOI request was made by John Hobson, a Lancashire anti-fracking campaigner. He has asked the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to reconsider its decision not to identify the report author.

76 replies »

  1. Interesting approach you have Sherwulfe. Wait to see what the posts are during the day, then emerge from your off grid shelter in the middle of the night to place your comments within the previous discussion. Quite clever-gives a few hours to think up an appropriate comment and unlikely to be questioned by others enjoying their beauty sleep. Who is it talking about the “last word syndrome”? Good job posts are time recorded, otherwise it might be difficult to spot the pots and kettles. (Oldest trick in the book. Accuse someone else of your own actions, to divert.) However, no need to feel so guilty about it. We had noticed some while ago. Perfectly legitimate, if somewhat unoriginal.

  2. Right motives, wrong methods.

    I thought this had already been established?

    This horse (again) had died a while ago. Refracking, sorry re flogging, will not bring it back to life.

  3. I see the smear fear mongers are desperately back PEDLing from the fake news attempt and distance themselves from the Chris Faulkner debacle?

    Just empty rhetoric and fear of pollution by their own actions?

    Deny Deny Deny Deny shall be all the law.

  4. Oh dear John. The fake “mug punters” sketch to replace the dead parrot.

    Who are these “mug punters”? In Barclays Bank-err, no. In INEOS-err, no. In Igas-err, no. Ohh, it must be those in AJL. Don’t think so, the funding for Cuadrilla is secured elsewhere, not via mug punters.

    If you are looking for some mug punters perhaps check with Mr. Musk. He seems to have a good collection.

    You continue to suggest that testing of fracking will stop if the antis can delay and cost money. No sign of that happening, especially with gas and oil prices rising still, even though you told us there was plenty of cheap oil and gas sloshing around the world. That one turned out to be pretty accurate-not.

    Just take a look at HH and see what happens. Some players cash in their holdings, others extend theirs. Always been thus.

    The longer the testing phase lasts the more time to expose the fake arguments of the antis. Even Achilles forgot his heel, so easily done.

    • I was referencing the Rev Michael Roberts’s comments about your friend the Frackmaster – he said something about his oil smelling snakey. It’s funny how they all seem to be saying that they knew he was a bad ‘un but said nothing. Lorraine’s been trying that one too on her Forge page today 🙂

  5. Well Refracktion. The title said ‘almost’. It means that it didn’t as the antis were hoping or suggesting.
    As suggested by the author, US shale did happen but almost killed itself because it is to successful in production and bring down price. Well that bankrupted many companies. But she forgot that as the result of less drillers the price will increase and until price production supply demand all reach an equilibrium.

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