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.
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- 1 was withdrawn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.
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.
“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.”