Top lawyer raises concerns about number of arrests at Balcombe fracking protests

Police

Police "criminalised fracking protests"

First published in News

Top police officers were quizzed on Friday about whether the force “criminalised protesters” at last year’s anti-fracking demonstrations in Balcombe.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne asked acting Chief Constable Giles York whether police had learned from the controversial protest policing, which saw many of those arrested acquitted.

Concerns have also been raised by the solicitor who represented many of the protesters in court, that the mass arrests were used as a tactic to criminalise protesters.

A total of 126 people were arrested during 62 days of protests in Balcombe last summer in an operation costing £4 million.

A total of 43 people have been acquitted, among them MP Caroline Lucas, leading to criticism of the operation.

Many protesters were arrested after police issued a Section 14 notice under the Public Order Act, which gives the power to arrest if protesters ignore conditions imposed by the force.

Lydia Dagostino, of Kelly’s solicitors in Brighton, said: “Balcombe was a turning point in the policing of protests as it was the first time Section 14 was used as a mass arróest technique, which resulted in peaceful protesters being arrested and taken through the court system for many months before being acquitted.

“The concern is that this has criminalised protest."

Ms Bourne, speaking at a performance and accountability meeting yesterday, said: “My concern is, have police learned from this?

“If you go on Google there are blogs from four years ago with similar stories about the use of Section 14. Are forces actually learning?

“The other issue is that the arrests were made as a tactic to criminalise protesters.”

Mr York replied: “We’ve got no interest in criminalising protesters.

“It’s incredibly difficult to strike that balance between facilitating legitimate protest and upholding the law, but it’s a balance we are seeking to strike.”

According to Freedom of Information requests by a national newspaper to Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, only 90 of the 126 people arrested were charged.

The last of the criminal trials finished this month, resulting in only 29 convictions.

Comments (8)

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7:26am Sun 18 May 14

mimseycal says...

4 million pound to secure 29 convictions? Arresting 129 to charge 90? And all this to 'protect' an exploratory fracking by a commercial enterprise?

Katy m'dear ... you should have been acting on this a lot sooner to justify your role ...
4 million pound to secure 29 convictions? Arresting 129 to charge 90? And all this to 'protect' an exploratory fracking by a commercial enterprise? Katy m'dear ... you should have been acting on this a lot sooner to justify your role ... mimseycal
  • Score: 9

8:52am Sun 18 May 14

Plantpot says...

Reading the reports in The Argus regarding the arrests and subsequent trial, it seemed to me that the arrests were for perfectly valid reasons but that the laws with which the protestors were charged proved to be the wrong ones. So yes, the protestors got off on a technicality (I am aware that all law is a technicality) but it doesn't mean that the intentions of Sussex Police weren't correct. Presumably those arrested but not charged were simply moved on, thus not criminalising them. Protestors seeking to deny someone their legal rights need to be able to have some form of sanction used against them.

Had the Police not been at Balcombe to protect employees going about their legal business, what would have been the outcome?
Reading the reports in The Argus regarding the arrests and subsequent trial, it seemed to me that the arrests were for perfectly valid reasons but that the laws with which the protestors were charged proved to be the wrong ones. So yes, the protestors got off on a technicality (I am aware that all law is a technicality) but it doesn't mean that the intentions of Sussex Police weren't correct. Presumably those arrested but not charged were simply moved on, thus not criminalising them. Protestors seeking to deny someone their legal rights need to be able to have some form of sanction used against them. Had the Police not been at Balcombe to protect employees going about their legal business, what would have been the outcome? Plantpot
  • Score: 9

9:24am Sun 18 May 14

Morpheus says...

Katy Bourne asks the question "Have we learned from this?" but she doesn't seem to have given an answer. Useless!
Katy Bourne asks the question "Have we learned from this?" but she doesn't seem to have given an answer. Useless! Morpheus
  • Score: 7

9:52am Sun 18 May 14

clubrob6 says...

Plantpot wrote:
Reading the reports in The Argus regarding the arrests and subsequent trial, it seemed to me that the arrests were for perfectly valid reasons but that the laws with which the protestors were charged proved to be the wrong ones. So yes, the protestors got off on a technicality (I am aware that all law is a technicality) but it doesn't mean that the intentions of Sussex Police weren't correct. Presumably those arrested but not charged were simply moved on, thus not criminalising them. Protestors seeking to deny someone their legal rights need to be able to have some form of sanction used against them.

Had the Police not been at Balcombe to protect employees going about their legal business, what would have been the outcome?
Its a bit like when UAF go around the country causing violence and abuse although the vast majority of arrests made are from this extremist group the UAF not many seen to get prosecuted probably because it is government funded.I call them UNITE AGAINST FREEDOM.
[quote][p][bold]Plantpot[/bold] wrote: Reading the reports in The Argus regarding the arrests and subsequent trial, it seemed to me that the arrests were for perfectly valid reasons but that the laws with which the protestors were charged proved to be the wrong ones. So yes, the protestors got off on a technicality (I am aware that all law is a technicality) but it doesn't mean that the intentions of Sussex Police weren't correct. Presumably those arrested but not charged were simply moved on, thus not criminalising them. Protestors seeking to deny someone their legal rights need to be able to have some form of sanction used against them. Had the Police not been at Balcombe to protect employees going about their legal business, what would have been the outcome?[/p][/quote]Its a bit like when UAF go around the country causing violence and abuse although the vast majority of arrests made are from this extremist group the UAF not many seen to get prosecuted probably because it is government funded.I call them UNITE AGAINST FREEDOM. clubrob6
  • Score: -1

10:53am Sun 18 May 14

Fercri Sakes says...

I can't stand protesters. Why can't they just bend over take it from capitalist interests like the rest of us I'm-all-right-Jacks? If there's money to be made then i don't see why we should worry about the risks. Let's just pocket the money and get out of there.

Ironic though that it was the protestors paying the polices wages yet the fracking company contributes nothing to the pot. It's as if they all believe they have the right to peacefully protest. Do they think this is the 60's? Tax-paying plebs.
I can't stand protesters. Why can't they just bend over take it from capitalist interests like the rest of us I'm-all-right-Jacks? If there's money to be made then i don't see why we should worry about the risks. Let's just pocket the money and get out of there. Ironic though that it was the protestors paying the polices wages yet the fracking company contributes nothing to the pot. It's as if they all believe they have the right to peacefully protest. Do they think this is the 60's? Tax-paying plebs. Fercri Sakes
  • Score: 1

11:58am Sun 18 May 14

pachallis says...

Fercri Sakes wrote:
I can't stand protesters. Why can't they just bend over take it from capitalist interests like the rest of us I'm-all-right-Jacks? If there's money to be made then i don't see why we should worry about the risks. Let's just pocket the money and get out of there.

Ironic though that it was the protestors paying the polices wages yet the fracking company contributes nothing to the pot. It's as if they all believe they have the right to peacefully protest. Do they think this is the 60's? Tax-paying plebs.
@Fercri Sakes - 'yet the fracking company contributes nothing to the pot'?

Well AFAIK Cuadrilla were working legally and within the law and they were being stopped by self-righteous 'civil disobedient' protesters, ably supported by various groups including the Green Party MPs and councillors who apparently think that parliamentary democracy doesn't apply to them (except when they get an MP or ruin a city by being the largest party in a council when they expect total blind obedience).

Perhaps the protesters themselves and/or the Green Party should also fund some of the police costs as they caused the trouble. If they had truly performed 'peaceful protests' then the police would not have been needed and arrests would not have been happened?
[quote][p][bold]Fercri Sakes[/bold] wrote: I can't stand protesters. Why can't they just bend over take it from capitalist interests like the rest of us I'm-all-right-Jacks? If there's money to be made then i don't see why we should worry about the risks. Let's just pocket the money and get out of there. Ironic though that it was the protestors paying the polices wages yet the fracking company contributes nothing to the pot. It's as if they all believe they have the right to peacefully protest. Do they think this is the 60's? Tax-paying plebs.[/p][/quote]@Fercri Sakes - 'yet the fracking company contributes nothing to the pot'? Well AFAIK Cuadrilla were working legally and within the law and they were being stopped by self-righteous 'civil disobedient' protesters, ably supported by various groups including the Green Party MPs and councillors who apparently think that parliamentary democracy doesn't apply to them (except when they get an MP or ruin a city by being the largest party in a council when they expect total blind obedience). Perhaps the protesters themselves and/or the Green Party should also fund some of the police costs as they caused the trouble. If they had truly performed 'peaceful protests' then the police would not have been needed and arrests would not have been happened? pachallis
  • Score: -2

12:49pm Sun 18 May 14

getThisCoalitionOut says...

The police do not work to protect us - they work for the Queen and government first, that means they are protecting the likes of George Osborne's father in law who owns a fracking company. Remember Osborne also gave a 50% discount to fracking companies tax bills - so they don't pay anything for the policing and now contribute 50% less tax to help pay for the colossal damage they are causing.

Katy Bourne proves again that she is as much use as a chocolate teapot.

She costs over £300K PA with her expenses and staff taken into account, get rid of her.
The police do not work to protect us - they work for the Queen and government first, that means they are protecting the likes of George Osborne's father in law who owns a fracking company. Remember Osborne also gave a 50% discount to fracking companies tax bills - so they don't pay anything for the policing and now contribute 50% less tax to help pay for the colossal damage they are causing. Katy Bourne proves again that she is as much use as a chocolate teapot. She costs over £300K PA with her expenses and staff taken into account, get rid of her. getThisCoalitionOut
  • Score: 2

1:53pm Sun 18 May 14

pachallis says...

getThisCoalitionOut wrote:
The police do not work to protect us - they work for the Queen and government first, that means they are protecting the likes of George Osborne's father in law who owns a fracking company. Remember Osborne also gave a 50% discount to fracking companies tax bills - so they don't pay anything for the policing and now contribute 50% less tax to help pay for the colossal damage they are causing.

Katy Bourne proves again that she is as much use as a chocolate teapot.

She costs over £300K PA with her expenses and staff taken into account, get rid of her.
@getThisCoalitionOut - your same old green-left anti-capitalist rubbish!

Never mind - when the greens really get into power (oh - is that a pig I see flying past my window?) this won't be a problem as you plan to re-nationalise all the energy suppliers.

You can then increase energy prices way above inflation to encourage energy saving and finance your grandiose schemes and vanity projets.
[quote][p][bold]getThisCoalitionOut[/bold] wrote: The police do not work to protect us - they work for the Queen and government first, that means they are protecting the likes of George Osborne's father in law who owns a fracking company. Remember Osborne also gave a 50% discount to fracking companies tax bills - so they don't pay anything for the policing and now contribute 50% less tax to help pay for the colossal damage they are causing. Katy Bourne proves again that she is as much use as a chocolate teapot. She costs over £300K PA with her expenses and staff taken into account, get rid of her.[/p][/quote]@getThisCoalitionOut - your same old green-left anti-capitalist rubbish! Never mind - when the greens really get into power (oh - is that a pig I see flying past my window?) this won't be a problem as you plan to re-nationalise all the energy suppliers. You can then increase energy prices way above inflation to encourage energy saving and finance your grandiose schemes and vanity projets. pachallis
  • Score: 0

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