Sussex police were yesterday accused of using mass arrests and draconian bail conditions as a means of criminalising lawful anti-fracking protests.
A series of trials involving protestors, including the Green MP Caroline Lucas, resulted in only 29 convictions. Lydia Dagostino, a solicitor who represented many of the accused, told The Guardian:
'What they did criminalised protest. They used the section 14 orders and bail conditions, which were imposed on everyone and which stopped them from going within miles of the site, to stop them from protesting. It was like an injunction by the back door. If you turn up – new to protest – and you think you are going to be sitting down singing the anti-fracking anthem and then see people being arrested and handcuffed, it is quite shocking and frightening and puts you off being there.'
In one case a District Judge questioned the police use of so-called 'Section 14' notices, which the police can use to establish an exclusion zone if a senior officer believes there is the risk of serious disorder. 'I have such concerns about the notice … that I find it to be invalid', the Judge said.
Chief Superintendant Paul Morrison of Sussex Police said,
'We are looking at the judgments and the implications for policing future events of this nature but I am satisfied that public order policing in Sussex is conducted professionally and fairly.'
Earlier this week Will Jackson wrote for this site on the 'out of control' policing of anti-fracking protests.