Tagged Anti-fracking

Extraordinary judgment rubber-stamps unfounded link between anti-fracking and extremism

PHOTO: Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock

PHOTO: Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock

The Information Commissioner, in rejecting an appeal by Netpol over the refusal of the police to release details of a programme to ‘deradicalise extremists’, has endorsed unfounded and unsubstantiated links between anti-fracking protests and the threat of terrorism.

In October 2015, we asked Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside police for details of referrals made in the prior ten months through Channel, a ‘counter radicalisation’ process that is part of the government’s anti-terrorism Prevent strategy. Channel supposedly offers voluntary support to people identified as “vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism” and although there are a number of agencies involved in it, the police play a central role in its delivery. Rather than overall statistics, we asked specifically for the number of individuals seen as allegedly at risk through their involvement in anti-fracking campaigns.

Our requests were the result of concerns raised with us by campaigners from the region who were angered that their opposition to fracking had been used as an excuse to refer them to Channel, in most cases by universities or further education colleges. All related to an alleged ‘risk’ to adults rather than children.

In a startling determination, the Information Commissioner has said:

Channel may be appropriate for anyone who is vulnerable to being drawn into any form of terrorism… It follows from this that, for a referral to be made to Channel, it must be suspected that an individual is at risk of becoming involved in terrorist related activity.

In effect, the Commissioner is insisting nobody is referred unless there is a good reason for doing so – even if this is for nothing more than expressing legitimate political opinions about fracking. Read more

Report highlights ‘chilling effect’ on freedom to protest against fracking

pages-from-policing-anti-fracking-protests-report-2014-2016

Netpol has published a new report, ‘Protecting the Protectors: Monitoring the Policing of Anti-Fracking Protests since 2014’, which summarises our activities, findings and analysis of the policing of protests against fracking since 2014.

Drawing extensively on discussions with anti-fracking campaigners, as well as our own observations at prospective fracking sites, the report covers our

  • •Engagement with – and development of resources for – anti-fracking campaigners
  • Concerns with the policing of anti-fracking demonstrations and camps
  • The intrusive surveillance of anti-fracking campaigners; and
  • The opaque relationship between the police and the fracking industry .

We have argued that the way policing operations are planned for anti-fracking protests, the scale of intrusive surveillance against campaigners and ‘zero tolerance’ attitudes towards civil disobedience has a cumulative ‘chilling effect’ on freedoms of assembly and expression:

When coupled with an unfounded association with serious criminality and ‘extremism’ and an unwillingness by police to accommodate protests without routinely making arrests, this can start to quickly chip away at campaign groups’ support and participation and have a disruptive impact on their effectiveness and activities.

With the imminence of new test drilling and exploration sites around the country, the report also outlines the next phase of our campaigning work between now and September 2018.

Your can download a copy of the report here [pdf_icon, 1.2 Mb]

How transparent is the policing of anti-fracking protests?

Anti-fracking protest march in Malton, North Yorkshire

Anti-fracking protest march in Malton, North Yorkshire. PHOTO: Paul Rookes / Shutterstock.com

The interests of energy companies are widely perceived as taking priority over the rights of protesters.

Nearly a year after we first raised concerns about new guidelines on the policing of anti-fracking protests, we have finally had some answers to questions we raised with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

In the last of four posts, we examine what the NPCC’s response tells us about the level of transparency of policing operations involving anti-fracking protests.  Read more

Is dialogue with Police Liaison Officers really ‘voluntary’?

Police Liaison Officers at the March against Austerity in June 2014. PHOTO: Netpol

A cluster of Police Liaison Officers at the March against Austerity in June 2014. PHOTO: Netpol

Nearly a year after we first raised concerns about new guidelines on the policing of anti-fracking protests, we have finally had some answers to questions we raised with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

In the third of four posts, we look at police attitudes to the use of ‘dialogue’ and ‘liaison’ and whether senior officers have a different understanding from protesters about what these words really mean. Earlier posts cover intelligence-gathering operations and body-worn cameras at anti-fracking protests. Read more

Police chiefs reject body-worn video camera privacy concerns

Body-worn video cameras privacy

Body-worn video cameras on police officers in Nottinghamshire. PHOTO: Netpol

Police chiefs show extraordinary lack of interest in privacy issues

Nearly a year after Netpol first raised concerns about new guidelines on the policing of anti-fracking protests, we have finally received some answers to questions we raised with the National Police Chiefs Council.

In the second of four posts, we look at the police’s attitude to the use of body-worn cameras and the implications for protesters’ individual privacy.

In Netpol’s briefing to the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) last year we raised, within wider concerns about the level of intensive and sustained surveillance targeted at anti-fracking protesters, the particular issues of photography and police body-worn video (BWV).

The NPCC guidance makes it clear that police will use live video sources, including video cameras worn by individual officers, supplemented by social media sources. Read more

Police refuse to rule out using undercover officers at anti-fracking protests

PHOTO: Frack Free Greater Manchester

PHOTO: Frack Free Greater Manchester

National Police Chiefs Council insists using controversial covert undercover tactics is a matter for local police commanders

In July 2015, the National Police Chiefs Council published new guidance on operations targeting anti-fracking protests. In response, Netpol produced a detailed briefing raising eighteen questions about the scale and tactics of policing operations and the necessity of undertaking significant intelligence-gathering targeting opponents of fracking. Now, nearly a year on, we have finally received a reply from Norfolk Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Sarah Hamlin, of the NPCC’s National Protest Working Group.

In the first of four posts examining what her answers tell us about police attitudes to the policing of protest, we look at intelligence-gathering and the labelling of protesters as ‘extremists’. Read more

Netpol secures funds until 2018 to campaign to change anti-fracking protest policing

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Anti-fracking protesters outside the Manchester Oil and Gas Summit in July 2016. PHOTO: Netpol

Protesters outside the Oil and Gas Summit in Manchester in July 2016. PHOTO: Netpol

Netpol receives new two-year funding from October 2016

We are delighted to announce that Netpol has secured additional funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd to address the pressing need to change the way the police continue to respond to anti-fracking protests.

From October 2016, our ‘Protecting the Anti-Fracking Protectors’ campaign will seek:

  • a political consensus locally and nationally that policing operations at future protests are genuinely less aggressive in their size and tactics and more transparent in their dealings with industry and the media.
  • Lobby Police & Crime Commissioners to publish their expectations of policing strategies towards anti-fracking protests and to effectively scrutinise the human rights compliance of policing operations in their areas.
  • an end to intensive surveillance and intelligence-gathering against anti-fracking protesters.
  • greater awareness among first time anti-fracking campaigners about their fundamental legal rights,

Alongside our lobbying work, we intend to develop new tools to illustrate how campaigners can most effectively assert their rights to assembly and freedom of expression. We are also setting up a ‘whistle-blowing’ website offering individual campaigners who feel they are unfairly targeted the reassurance they can share information with us securely (including, for example, on inappropriate referrals to the government’s ‘Prevent’ anti-radicalisation programme or evidence of the unfair labelling of activists as ‘extremists’).

Since we began working with the anti-fracking movement in 2014, Netpol has uncovered significant evidence of close ties between police forces and the onshore oil and gas industry and shown how public order training for senior police officers is focused specifically on anti-fracking protest, which undermine attempts by police to portray themselves as ‘neutral’.

Read more

Victory for Horse Hill defendants but no definitive ruling on ‘slow-walking’ tactic

Horse Hill defendants outside Redhill magistrates court. PHOTO: Netpol

Horse Hill defendants outside Redhill magistrates court. PHOTO: Netpol

Last week’s verdicts were an important victory – but they do not settle arguments about what constitutes “reasonable” obstruction of the highway

During last week’s trial of anti-fracking campaigners charged with obstructing the highway near the Horse Hill exploration site in Surrey, one defendant made the surprising claim that a solicitor at the London law firm Bindmans had told him “it was OK to walk in the road”.

District Judge William Ashworth said he was “disturbed” by this statement, although it seems more like a simple misunderstanding of a solicitor’s advice. It reflects, though, the degree of confusion felt by many anti-fracking protesters about their rights to protest against lorries and tankers arriving at oil and gas exploration sites – and in particular, the use of the “slow-walking” tactic. Read more

Netpol calls for assurances on protecting right to protest against fracking in North Yorkshire

PHOTO: Randi Sokoloff | Shutterstock

PHOTO: Randi Sokoloff | Shutterstock

It is deeply disappointing that within a matter of moments following yesterday’s planning decision by county councillors to approve fracking in Ryedale, North Yorkshire Police promised a crackdown on future protests. Its pre-prepared statement said that it plans to take “appropriate action against those who break the law” and “not tolerate criminal behaviour and we will ensure public order is maintained.”

Raising the temperature of an already fraught and emotive debate with an unnecessarily inflammatory press release is unhelpful. It is also another indicator of all too commonplace and negative assumptions by police about what have always been overwhelmingly peaceful anti-fracking protests. Read more

Police and Crime Commissioners must listen to local anti-fracking campaigners on rights to protest

Randi Sokoloff - Shutterstock.com 1000 x 667

Protester in Balcombe, West Sussex, August 2013. PHOTO: Randi Sokoloff – Shutterstock.com

With an election looming, it is time to insist Police and Crime Commissioners address the worrying lack of accountability of major policing operations against anti-fracking protests

Next Thursday, on 5 May, voters in 41 police force areas in England & Wales, excluding London, will elect for their Police and Crime Commissioner, whose role is supposed to hold local police to account for delivering policing based on public demands.

This includes the policing of protest – and in particular, the response of the police to local opposition against fracking sites. With the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) saying it is about to review its strategic guidance for forces on this issue, it is part of Police and Crime Commissioners’ role to engage with the public about the impact of huge operations like the ones seen in Upton in Cheshire and Barton Moss in Greater Manchester. Read more