WE have now both sides represented in the policing row over Barton Moss and the anti-fracking process.
A report of say police misconduct from one of their number may within the group gather momentum and start to accrue significance it doesn't warrant. We've all seen this happen among like-minded people.
Below are quotes from Chief Constable Peter Fahy and Frances Leader of the Balcombe and Beyond protesters - or the rather sinister 'protectors' as they self-describe. By the way 'Balcombe' refers to the location of the first anti-fracking protest in the South.
After both these statements there's a comment from the Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd.
From a general citizen's point of view it's a difficult one this.
The problem is the whole issue turns into a 'he said-she said' argument.
The police, unlike the protesters, are hedged in with statutory regulation. There are official channels through which complaints can be made and through which the police should be called to account if they overstep the mark. They have a duty to report and act on 'facts' rather than take a prejudiced view.
Unfortunately there have been recent occasions - including last week's 'plebgate' convictions - when this has not happened. And investigations into police conduct can, like all justice, be slow, too slow.
But at least the police are bounded by their contracts and duties, the protesters are unencumbered by these.
They have a 'cause' as the words of Frances Leader make clear. To further that cause they would, it would be logical to assume, interpret situations in their favour.
A report of say police misconduct from one of their number may within the group gather momentum and start to accrue significance it doesn't warrant. We've all seen this happen among like-minded people. When that happens, unlike the police, there is no impartial inspectorate to judge the claim.
It's a shame this has become a 'he said-she said' police v protesters row. It would be better for us all to contemplate the essence of the subject. Should we push ahead with fracking or not?
Anyway here are the statements...
Chief Constable Peter Fahy
Peter FahyThe cost of this operation is met from our normal budget and means that officers on duty at this protest are not patrolling their beats or carrying out operations to investigate crime. We have to be there to ensure the protest is peaceful and to balance the rights of the protestors and those wanting to carry out drilling on the site which are both lawful activities. The police are stuck in the middle.
For all the hundreds of hours of policing we have received only 21 complaints, five of which are from the same person. We take this seriously and will investigate any complaints thoroughly.
We appreciate the strength of feeling of the protestors and that drilling for gas is a matter of national debate. We deal with many protests in Greater Manchester and always try to negotiate an understanding which facilitates protest which is a basic human right. On the other hand we are disappointed that some at the site constantly try and provoke officers and are personally insulting to them. We will continue to expect the highest standards of restraint and patience from our officers but also ask the public to appreciate the difficult position they have been put in."
The costs to date are £660,000.
Frances Leader, Balcombe and Beyond Anti-Fracking Group, Treasurer & Fund-raiser, Protectors Travelling Fund
Barton Moss ProtestersThank you for inviting me to comment on this press release from the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police. We, the Protectors, did not invite Igas or any other Oil or Gas Corporation to drill holes all over Great Britain in their greedy and relentless dash for cash. Neither did we invite, nor need any facilitation of our protest from Greater Manchester Police.
The massive over-policing of our efforts to protect Barton Moss from this invasion may well be very expensive but we, the Protectors, require no supervision. We are peaceful, intelligent and respectful people who have tried all avenues of reasonable objection against an industry that did not fully consult the community, nor sought any social licence, before commencing to inflict its dubious activities upon the good people of Greater Manchester.
It is testament to our patience and restraint that there have been so few complaints received by GMP so far, but we would point out that we have submitted far more than the 21 they have accepted.
We feel strongly that 21 complaints by members of the public is actually far too many being raised against a team of individuals who, supposedly, are sworn to protect people and fight crime.
We refute, absolutely, the assertion made by the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police that we have, in any way, insulted or provoked his officers, quite the reverse is closer to the truth.
We have been provoked daily with pushing, kicking, treading on feet, false accusations regarding flares and drunkenness and there has been point blank refusal on the part of his officers to investigate flagrant infractions of the law by Igas staff and delivery lorry drivers.
Recently, an Igas minibus full of workers deliberately drove at several Protectors, colliding with two individuals. These events were reported to the Police immediately but were completely ignored. The driver was permitted to drive away.
The wanton destruction of several trees in Barton Moss Road, ordered, sanctioned and supervised by the GMP was particularly distressing to our Protectors, who regard all life as sacred. This work was deliberately undertaken at dawn with chainsaws, to disturb and intimidate those sleeping in tents in the immediate vicinity.
We have also falsely been accused of harbouring aggressive individuals in our midst and deliberately intimidating neighbours, causing them alarm and distress. These accusations are also completely unfounded.
Considering all of the above, I feel our Protectors have behaved with astonishing dignity and restraint. I am very proud to declare that they have consistently held the higher moral ground.
Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd
There is legitimate public concern over this operation and it is right and proper that allegations of police misconduct are investigated fully and thoroughly.
I have – publicly and privately – called on the Chief Constable to provide assurances that the operation at Barton Moss is proportionate. It is a complex situation where police have to balance the legitimate rights of people to lawfully protest with the rights of those who live and work in the local area.
Given there are active investigations into the conduct of police, it is difficult for me to say more at this stage, but I expect the outcomes to be made public and if misconduct has occurred, appropriate action to be taken.”
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