Anti-fracker claims police were ‘incredibly violent’

Police at the Preston New Road fracking site
Police at the Preston New Road fracking site

An anti-fracking campaigner accused police of being “incredibly violent” towards fellow protestors.

Edward Thornton, 33, who lives at Grade Two listed Middleton Hall near Pickering, North Yorkshire, is one of four people who have denied a Public Order Act allegation by refusing to obey a senior police officer’s command.

My safety was being ensured not by the police but by my friends

The four were involved in a “locked on” protest at the shale gas fracking site being operated by Cuadrilla at Westby with Plumpton. On the morning of January 31 this year Thornton locked 
himself onto his three co-accused Jared Dunne, 22, of Manchester Road, Warrington; Louise Hammond, 54, of Cedar Avenue, Scunthorpe and Joseph Boyd, 43, of Blyth Hey, Bootle.

They used a series of concrete and metal tubes on their arms which chained and locked.

The four laid down across the front entrance to the site. It is alleged by Crown Prosecutor Malcolm Isherwood that they were causing a disruption and disturbance.

Senior police officer at the scene Inspector Chris Hardy gave them a warning by megaphone. He then spoke to them in turn and then sent each one an officer who took them through what is called the five step appeal during which they can agree to end their protest within a given time. In evidence District Judge Jeff Brailsford was told that the protest was meant to be a symbolic one which was organised after two anti frackers had been arrested the previous day.

They claimed to have an agreement with a police liaison team on site that they would discuss ending the lock on at 9-30am.

They felt their trust had been broken when Inspector Hardy intervened and a riot squad team arrived on scene.

Boyd told the judge: “I believe the police had adopted a zero tolerance policy at Plumpton, something they had not done at other sites.

“When the public order team moved in we felt our trust had been broken.

“We had been peaceful but then they started carrying and dragging people across the road.

“It was then we disengaged from the police. We knew we were going to be arrested.

“The locked on protest was to gain visibility for our campaign. We had messages for the chief executive of Cuadrilla, Francis Egan, on our arm tubes. What is going on behind those gates is an atrocity but we did not going into lightly. However when the riot van arrived the officers became incredibly violent.

“My safety was being ensured not by the police but by my friends.

“The traffic was not being halted and we were making a visual protest against fracking.”

(Proceeding)