Court case dropped after police give evidence of “force-wide policy” against slow walking

190120 west newton peter yankowski2

Rathlin Energy’s West Newton A well site north of Hull, 20 January 2019. Photo: Peter Yankowski

The trial of an environmental campaigner was abandoned halfway through yesterday when the court heard that Humberside Police had a force-wide policy against a particular form of protest.

The prosecutor asked a district judge at Hull Magistrates court to drop the case after two police officers gave evidence on the policy.

The charge of obstructing the highway against Eddie Thornton, from North Yorkshire, was dismissed.

Mr Thornton had been arrested outside Rathlin Energy’s oil and gas site at West Newton on 11 December 2018. His was the first arrest since exploration at the East Yorkshire site resumed last year.

His lawyer, Helen White, said the court heard from a police constable and then a detective sergeant that Humberside Police had a force-wide policy against slow-walking protests.

This is a widely used tactic against oil and gas operators, where campaigners walk slowly in front of delivery vehicles.

North Yorkshire Police facilitated some slow walking protests on the route to Third Energy’s proposed fracking site at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale. Courts in Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Sussex and Surrey have acquitted some protesters arrested for this form of protest.

Ms White said:

“It was an important declaration from Humberside Police. It rang alarm bells for me, and the district judge and the prosecution.”

Ms White said there was a qualified right to protest on the highway under articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act.

“When a public authority interferes with rights under the articles, it has to be justified, reasonable and proportionate.

“This is a very significant case.

“This [policy] was an unjustified interference in the article rights.”

Ms White said a lack of dialogue between police and campaigners, and the police decision not to allow slow walking, had resulted in the case being unsuccessfully prosecuted.

DrillOrDrop invited Humberside Police to comment on the policy. A spokesperson said:

“Evidence was presented to the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to this case.
“We accept the decision that was taken when the case was brought to Hull Magistrates Court.”

A spokesperson for Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner said:

“The Commissioner’s role does not cover operational policing and your request should be directed to Humberside Police for comment on any operational policy the force may have.

“The Commissioner has not been made aware of any such policy by Humberside Police but issues of this nature are addressed in scheduled governance and accountability meetings with the force and this particular issue will be clarified at the next meeting at the end of November.”

Updated at 7.30pm with statement from Humberside Police

4 replies »

  1. Why is a ‘force wide policy’ such a game changer? Surely there can not be anything other than that. Otherwise, you have a station by station different interpretation. I really don’t get what the great victory is. As for slow walking, pedestrians do have the right of way over any other motorized vehicle on the highway, but obstructing the highway is an offense. I am sure if I were to slow walk in front of Mr Thornton in which ever vehicle he was in (or riding) whilst going to earn his living or to an appointment or such, eventually he would be making a call for PC plod to assist. The prosecuting authorities should not drop such prosecutions like this. Campaigners tend to read such administrative procedures as vindication and an assignment of rights that don’t exist. Then they become more obstructive. Protestors should remember, two can play at that game and where ‘ordinary’ people have money tied up in investments which they see being put at risk, they are increasingly minded to copy the protestor tactics. Slow walks, chaining up of vehicles, specious litigation and so on. It’s called karma and it will start coming to you at some point.

  2. Their aim is to slow the industry down, all their efforts were futile and not even note worthy compared to how the industry slows itself down with red tape. The gas guzzling intruders from the other side of the country (or hero’s is it) should look at adding to society instead of costing us tax payers tens of thousands of pounds with extra Police hours and court and lawyer fee’s.

  3. These clowns claim anything as a victory. Some comments have even been posted with the added words that it was a legal entitlement to slow walk, which it is not by the way. [Edited by moderator] They claim that the OGA are conducting investigations against Rathlin when they are not, they claim things stolen and reports have been made to the police when they have not. [Edited by moderator]

  4. That’s the legal process for you, Donald.

    Speed past a school and one legal team will enable you to avoid prosecution, another will find they can not. It does not mean speeding past schools is the right and proper thing to do.

    Of course there will be some who look at this and think it is a “victory” and some drivers would do the same. Makes the job of the police difficult but they will just adjust their procedures to cope, stop the loop hole and the next person may find the consequence.

    County line gangs may not be such a problem if police were not having to do this and deal with XR.

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