policing

7% of misconduct allegations upheld against Lancashire police at anti-fracking protests

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Protest policing outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 1 March 2017. Photo: Peter Yankowski

Lancashire Police has disclosed that 220 allegations of misconduct were made against its officers at anti-fracking protests outside Cuadrilla’s fracking site – but only 15 were upheld.

The force also revealed there was an ongoing legal case against it, arising from the policing operation at the Preston New Road site, near Blackpool.

The details came today in a response to a freedom of information request by Peter K Roberts, an opponent of fracking.

Policing the Preston New Road protests, known as Operation Manila, ran from January 2017 to December 2019.

The operation cost almost £13m. Data released in October 2019 showed that less than half the arrests resulted in convictions.

Complaint details

Mr Roberts asked how many complaints had been lodged with the Lancashire Constabulary about the protest policing operation, known as Operation Manilla, which ran from January 2017 to December 2019.

The force said there had been 140 complaints, each with a varying number of allegations.

Of the total 220 allegations, it said:

  • 15 were upheld
  • 192 were not upheld
  • 12 were disapplied or discontinued
  • 1 was withdrawn

The response declined to give further details of the outcome of complaints. It said:

“Lancashire Constabulary can neither confirm nor deny that further information is held relevant to this question.”

It said there was a “public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that Lancashire Constabulary is appropriately and effectively dealing with allegations”.

But it said to confirm or deny whether it had further information would “in itself reveal personal details of the subject(s)” and “would be unfair”.

It would also “undermine any investigative process” and was therefore “not in the public interest”, the force said.

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Policing outside Preston New Road, 1 March 2017. Photo: Peter Yankowski

Legal proceedings

Mr Roberts also asked for the number and outcome of legal proceedings taken against police involved in Operation Manila.

The force responded:

“Lancashire Constabulary has had one set of proceedings which is ongoing.”

It said it did not hold information on any legal action against other forces which provided support to Lancashire early in Operation Manila.

10th Mar 2017 (20 police line up)

Police outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool, 10 March 2017.

“Police lucky not to have received more complaints”

Some anti-fracking campaigners criticised protest policing at Preston New Road as “heavy-handed” and “inconsistent”. It was accused by some of failing to balance a legitimate right to protest with Cuadrilla’s right to operate a business.

A study by universities in Liverpool, York and London in 2019 concluded that campaigners had experienced violence and intimidation from police officers, leading to physical injury, trauma and breakdown of trust.

Miranda Cox, an anti-fracking campaigner at Preston New Road, made a complaint against Lancashire Police.

In response to today’s figures, she said:

“My initial thoughts are that the police are lucky they only received 140 complaints. I think in different circumstances they would have received more.

“I know many activists were sceptical about making official complaints because experience taught us we rarely received justice.

“My personal experience of the complaints procedure has been very unsatisfactory.”

On the legal proceedings, Miranda Cox said:

“Given the high numbers of police deployed to PNR and the methods used they are again getting off lightly in terms of legal challenges.

“I personally witnessed and experienced scenes that shocked and dismayed me. On-going communication between PNR activists indicates that I am not alone in this sentiment.”

10 replies »

  1. So, little basis for complaint against the police at PNR.

    Interesting that some antis who raised their voices about unacceptable behaviour TOWARDS the police have been erased from DoD history.

    Might have made a more complete record, but not so exciting.

  2. Martin Collyer,

    Firstly you don’t live in Lancashire and have never witnessed the policing at Preston New Road so you have no basis to comment.

    The police don’t recognise complaints against themselves unless the Complainant was actually physically present at the time.

    There is also the issue of suspicious visitors causing unrest amongst genuine antifracking activists and causing trouble still to be resolved.

    Finally 15 cases of serious complaint upheld about police officer misconduct is not ‘little basis for complaint’ it is totally unacceptable. The big question now is what punishment did the officers receive and what apologies and compensation did the Complainant receive?

    • Peter – your statement “The police don’t recognise complaints against themselves unless the Complainant was actually physically present at the time” seems odd? How could someone who wasn’t there have something to complain about? Can I make a formal complaint about the antis at West Newton when I am sitting at home in Lancashire? – no, I thought not.

      The Headline for this article should read “93% of complaints against Lancashire Police by anti fracking demonstrators thrown out. Majority of complaints were frivolous and wasted public time and money…..”

      • Paul,

        Obviously to expect an internal police force investigation to willingly accept that their own officers had misbehaved would be unrealistic. Even when livestreaming of incidents were broadcast to people all over the world who witnessed for themselves the chaos that occurred when peaceful protest was broken up by heavy handed policing.

        This caused many people at home to fruitlessly attempt to complain about police actions, including myself.

        Livestreaming of protest activity was very actively discouraged by the police for obvious reasons and ceased in 2019, not before catching the overnight curfew breaking convoys delivering massive amounts of heavy fracking equipment though.

        Even so 15 complaints of police misconduct upheld in one location and related to just one police operation, Operation Manilla, is 15 too many. Especially now that the purpose of Operation Manilla has been shown to be controlling Citizen’s Rights to Protest when their own safety is compromised by the infliction of an unwanted dangerous new Industry, contrary to their Democratic wishes.

        Fortunately Cuadrilla have now been prevented from continuing operations any further after causing swarms of Hydrofrac Earthquakes to rattle across the Fylde!

      • The7% verses the 93% headline is the usual Drill or drop bias or it would be the wrong side of the fence for it’s paymasters.

  3. Taking into account the hundreds, if not thousands, of police who HAD to attend PNR, and put up with continuous abuse, there is little basis for complaint. The vast majority of them behaved with restraint and politeness.

    Ahh, those suspicious visitors. Well, you were pleased to accept their presence-even though they didn’t come from Lancashire- to swell the numbers and the genuine activists were not that determined to “police” themselves, so, tough. (I have been on demos in my youth. They were ALWAYS self policed. If you fail to do that, and there is disruption, that is YOUR responsibility. There is £30,000 raised for a Court case tomorrow. Could you not have organized a few stewards? Crowd funding for crowd control. Sounds good to me. Don’t see why I should pay for it, or any other tax payer.)

    What apologies and compensation will you pay to the police?

    • Martin Collyer, may I first point you in the direction of the submission by F. Martin that follows our exchange.
      His experience will have been oft repeated and mirrors mine.

      All expenses related to the policing at Preston New Road should have been paid for out of the PEDL Licence Fee received by the Treasury. Not the Lancashire County Council taxpayer, not by Income Tax received, not by ringfenced Crowdfunding.

      Oh and by the way, how can you possibly know the behaviour of persons involved at Preston New Road? Either you were there personally or you watched livestreams? Either way your first statement is palpably untrue! I was there and watched the livestreams when I was unable to.

      • The Government has NO money. It gains it’s money from tax payers or from borrowing, which is then paid for by the tax payer, Peter. Less company tax, more tax for the individual. You can try and pull the wool over your own eyes, but most are not that gullible. (Even if the policing should have been paid for out of PEDL Licence Fee-which it should not-if there was no need for that policing then the money could have been diverted elsewhere. You, and your buddies, caused that. Apologize and pay compensation. You, and your buddies diverted police from other activities that could have saved lives. Apologize and pay compensation. You and your buddies could have arranged stewards, as football clubs do, policing yourselves. You didn’t. Apologize and pay compensation.)

        As far as F.Martin is concerned, the police also have recorded evidence. If they made that available to me, I could comment. However, there HAVE been antis who have posted their distaste for the actions of some protestors. You argue they must be imposters, without evidence.

        I have absolutely no problem with protest that keeps within boundaries and doesn’t cost money for people who have no connection to it. But, that doesn’t gain the publicity needed so the boundaries are trashed, and then you blame the police! When Radio 5 exposes that, from the very media who love to play that game, then they are wrong!

        Never mind. Get the land returned to cattle, where it is reported that BURPING COWS are responsible for increased methane levels!

        It really is a joke. Isn’t it?

  4. i am a local and made a complaint against the police and how they had provoked an incident themselves at the end of a peaceful & good humored day of protest.in 2018. (most protestors were middle aged females) It took nearly 14 months to come up with an answer. Passed to their standards section, with plenty of camcorder video evidence their answer hardly touched on the actual incident, looking only at their process & tactics. — As they investigate themselves it wasn’t surprising when the complaint was –not upheld. There is no right of appeal. Smugly at their following Audit & Ethics Committee ( members all senior officers or PCC staff) boasted of an average number complaints. –.

    • Had all protestors been properly registered for the protest & kept behind barriers so that they are able to protest but not disrupt a lawful buisness the would likely not bee any upheld complaints against any police in doing there duty.

      Unfortunately the current system allows this abuse of the police & the law to take place.

      If protesters were law abiding in the first place.

      Actions lead to reactions!

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