I have resisted the temptation to comment about the shameful misuse of Police resources in the eviction of the anti-fracking camp in Upton until I'd had the opportunity to read all the reports including social media comments by those peaceful protesters who were affected by the presence of the Police and Bailiffs.
Let's look at what we have here. The High Court in Manchester granted IGas Energy a possession order for land which they either lease or own in Dutton's Lane, Upton, Manchester, where they have planning consent to carry out exploratory drilling for coal bed methane (or as the protestors believe, shale gas to be extracted through the dangerous polluting process of fracking).
For the best part of two years, environmental campaigners and anti-frackers had established a camp at the location and the possession order instructed them to leave by a certain date which they failed to do so.
The first thing to consider here is the nature of the order; it is in fact a civil order not a criminal one which instructs High Court Bailiffs to obtain possession. Now whenever there is an eviction the Police will never be far away and as they say, they are only there to 'prevent a breach of the peace'. So when the Bailiffs turn up to enforce and to evict they were accompanied by a 'small army' of Police from three separate forces, Cheshire, North Wales and Greater Manchester headed up as a Gold Commander an Assistant Chief Constable from Cheshire (this is heavy-duty stuff).
Now we all know that the Police are a completely impartial body (without fear or favour I think the words of the oath are!) and one would only EXPECT them to ensure that no breach of the peace took place and any other involvement would result in facilitating the work of the Bailiffs and a private company which would clearly not be impartial.
What happened was that persons present were told to disperse under the powers of Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Disorder Act 2014, which reads as follows:
A police officer of at least the rank of inspector may authorise the use of dispersal powers in a specified locality, during a specified period of not more than 48 hours. 'Specified' means specified in the authorisation. An officer may give such an authorisation only if satisfied on reasonable grounds that the use of those powers may be necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of -
The interesting part of the exercise of the power is that 'members of the public in the locality being harassed, alarmed or distressed' when many of the protestors live very close to the vicinity and that 85% of the people of Upton objected to the plans and at that point no crime or disorder had taken place. Personally I don't believe the senior Police managers acted impartially and the direction and control of the operation was flawed, they did far more than was required of them.
I would also challenge what right the Police had to remove people from private land not subject of the possession order as was the case here.
We now come to the question of who pays the policing costs?
The only clarity is that Cheshire will have to pay North Wales and GMP's costs but who pays Cheshire policing costs? Now the obvious answer seems to be IGas Energy - after all Cheshire Police were facilitating their corporate business - or the High Court.
However it's far more likely that it's the poor taxpayers of Cheshire that will be footing the bill.
This is yet another example of the Police being used to put corporate interests above those of the citizens they are supposed to be protecting.
I wonder what the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire has to say about this.