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Week Ending 12th January 2014

Special Report - The Russian Scare.

Special Report - Balcombe trial ends in not guilty verdicts.

Special Report - Government misleads on abandonment.

UK news highlights


Balcombe trial - Not Guilty!

A three-day trial of 9 defendants accused of obstruction (including the log jam!) ended with all acquitted.
One defendant was found not guilty of assault.
The district judge decided the defendants' actions were reasonable.
The trial included evidence that the police had blocked the road (and so how could there be highway obstruction by the protectors?), that the defendants were not given proper warnings, and that police action had been unreasonable and violent.
See more comment in our special report On the 25th November the first trial of a protector also resulted in the case being thrown out after the judge invited the prosecution service to drop the case against a woman protester.



Barton Moss

Monday morning - a lock-on by three courageous women. It looks like the police have earned themselves a bitter winter by their confrontational approach to policing Barton Moss. The protectors clearly are not for turning.

On Monday police swooped on the Barton Moss camp, rifled through the tents and left people's bedding, clothing and other possessions out on the ground in the rain, supposedly hunting for flares after they asserted one had been fired at a police helicopter on Saturday.
One wonders whether the IGas site was similarly searched. And if not why not. What is there to gain from the protectors' point of view of firing a flare at a helicopter? Nothing. Discrediting the camp seems a good motive though? Or have I read and written too many crime novels?

Maybe there is a third possibility. The whole affair is a police fabrication, intended to facilitate an attack on the camp.

Some serious questions need to be asked about this affair. The supposed flare attack came on Saturday, and was described by the police as "an unbelievably stupid act of criminality" which could not only have been "catastrophic for the aircraft and its crew but potentially for numerous homes near the airfield, the M62 motorway and a children's residential facility.” This was in the police's reported view an extremely serious incident. Why then.did it take two whole days until police invaded and "searched" the camp for more flares? Why did it take one day to get a search warrant, then another day to execute the warrant?

The police has confirmed that the incident took place at 12.15am on Saturday. They say the delay was caused by the need for an investigating team to question the helicopter pilot, and to gain a warrant. Given the timing of the supposed "attack", it is simply not credible that they could not act immediately under anti-terrorist laws, or, alternatively, had got their interview and warrant all sorted out by the Saturday morning.

Something is very wrong here.

And the statement in the Manchester Evening News from Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts clearly demonstrates bias against the protectors. Not only an unwarrented presumption of guilt against the camp for this incident - and of course NO flares were found during the search. Frankly it beggars belief that the police should think after an incident like that more flares or flare launching guns would be stored on-site. Do they think the protectors are incredibly stupid, or was the camp search a clear case of harassment? I know which view I favour. But then protectors at the camp who were awake covering the time of the alleged incident said they never saw any flare. It will remain in some doubt whether any flare actually existed.

The Chief Superintendent's statement about "regular protesters" seeking confrontation with police again gives us a clear picture - the police has one ambition, a political ambition, to stop the protest. To discredit and close down the camp.

It is perhaps no coincidence that in the same newspaper report it was said the police cost of defending the IGas Barton Moss site was said to have reached £330,000, another timely statement intended to shift public opinion against the camp..

Update.

It is now confirmed, what was suspected earlier, that the police say the incident took place at 12.15am on Saturday, ie just after midnight on "Friday night". In effect it took all day Saturday AND Sunday to do one interview with one pilot and go to a JP for a warrant. Then another day until Monday to gather a search and destroy team. This beggars belief. If a flare had been fired at a helicopter this would have ranked as a major "terrorist" incident. Hopefully the police and crime commissioner will receive numerous complaints. I would go further. It calls for his resignation. He has signally failed in the duty of securing effective and efficient policing.

More Barton Moss news.

Barton Moss arrests are now said to total 42.

Meanwhile, court action was taken, not involving charges by the police, but a civil action against them. Charges were laid out before a court that many people have suffered abuse and assault at the hands of the Greater Manchester Police in the peaceful protection of the lands at Barton Moss. The court action will continue over the coming weeks.

Tuesday morning the police found another brave pair of women superglued inside a car.

Six arrestees pleaded not guilty to obstruction charges in Manchester Magistrates Court and had their cases adjourned.

The stories of police bullying laced with incompetence just get worse. On Wednesday a man who had had his police bail conditions lifted by a court was allegedly rearrested (unlawfully) by the police for breaching his bail conditions. He was released after less than half an hour.

There was an unexplained incident at the IGas site on Wednesday, causing the arrival of two fire engines, promting suggestions that this was their first on-site accident.

Candidate for quote of the week - "Lush have agreed to make an emergency donation to the camp to cover the costs of laundering and drying all the bedding the police deliberately trashed yesterday, and to replace any bedding that can't be salvaged. Leaving bedding in the mud and out in the rain was illegal, completely unnecessary, and clearly vindictive. We're so sorry this happened to all the brave and inspirational Protectors at Barton Moss, resisting the fracking in this horrendous weather."
Rebecca Lush Blum



The Barton Moss rig - ready to go? With its nice blue stack waiting to puff its pollution into the atmosphere.

Another candidate for quote of the week.

It was my second farcical 'arrest' of the last week , so understandably all sorts of theories about attempted intimidation tactics etc. have abounded.... But you know what , I'm pretty sure in both instances it was just sheer incompetence . It was 'wilful' incompetence it must be said , as right from the start they were told by numerous law abiding citizens that their actions were totally mis-placed and out of order .... but still they insisted on carrying on like bulls in a china shop.. . .....and there was one point when I was pointing put how I'll-placed there actions were and it was said to me 'well our computer says you should be arrested so that is that . Which is actually much more scary to me than any coruptness , lack of proper sense of duty and all that other stuff ... Follow that one through , and the apparent lack of any iintelligent person to call to question the orders of the computer , and the implications are really quite mind boggling ...

Thursday. Ann Power was forcibly removed from a march, then returned but threatened with arrest for obstruction. Jamie Spiers was reportedly arrested for trying to protect her. Meanwhile another protector was singled out and snatched in what has now become commonplace police policy to arrest people for who they are rather than what they have done. The scandal of Barton Moss is growing.

Also on Thursday two protectors who were arrested on allegedly spurious charges of highway obstruction refused police bail in protest at the wrong arrests. They were supported by demonstrators outside the police station. The next day they went before the magistrates, who released them on unconditional bail and questioned why the police had kept them in. Once again we are seeing official acceptance that the police are acting unreasonably in attempting to impose unjustifiable police bail conditions as a means of controlling and punishing the protectors.

A march of hundreds of people (organisers estimated 500-1000, the media reported around 300) from Salford centre to the potential fracking site at Barton Moss finally captured national TV attention.

Other UK News

City AM promoted a poll conducted by online financial betting system Capital Spreads which suggested that fracking would bring gas prices down. How ethical is this, when all the signs are to the contrary? If the intention was to look at global markets this should have been crystal clear. Because it won't happen here.

Celtique are running scared. They are so transparent and open that they want to ban recording of individual conversations between themselves and the public.

The trial began on Tuesday in Brighton of nine people arrested at Balcombe Protection Camp. The trial is expected to last several days.

In the clearest signal yet that the government knows it is losing the fracking war the Independent reports that they will increase the community bribe. This is a disgraceful admission that there is no argument which will convince the public that fracking is safe and beneficial, and that we are seeing an incompetent government making up policy on-the-hoof. It will only serve to increase accusations that local authorities will not be able to assess planning applications impartially and without vested interest.

Ex-government adviser David King says up to 2,000 wells a year need to be drilled to gain any economic benefit. And this is not possible. Any sane government would learn the message and pull the plug on shale. But not these incompetents, who are despreately trying to hide their economic failures and lack of energy policy. Or are they seeking a quick profit for their friends? It is looking increasingly like the latter, in any intelligent view.

David Cameron seems to be waking up to abnormal weather events being linked to climate change but Paterson is still in denial. The outgoing chair of the NFU tells Paterson to shut up about benefits of climate change when farmers' livelihoods are being ruined.

Fracking Digest admits that because of activity at Barton Moss we have tended to overlook the activity in Northern Ireland, where there is a continuing swell of opposition to fracking.

French oil company Total have announced they want to help frack Lincolnshire. Unable to explore for shale in their own country because of a ban on fracking, they want to frack the English countryside. They join US corporation Ecorp and Singapore-listed Dart energy in showing that the economic benefits of fracking will not remain in the UK.

A local row erupted in Freckleton, Lancs, where Cuadrilla want to sink their drill. The local parish council seems completely at odds with its community. The council chairman showed ignorance and ineffectiveness, as he said the council could ensure safety of fracking, and since the government wanted to frack there was nothing local people could do. Freckleton is not in unsound hands. If a parish council will turn against its own community there is a clear pointer as to what action should be taken. The next elections are in May 2015.

Elsewhere

New York state produced a new energy strategy for consultation. It includes clean and renewable energy and reduced energy bills, but no fracking!

The Disney corportation came under fire for promoting fracking to schoolchildren.

Reports from Kansas and Texas show that the earthquake isn't just going away, as the frackers might hope. The Blackpool tremors and the ripples they caused when they were shown to be directly related to fracking have extended far beyond the UK, as realisation dawned in the US that they were suffering from fracking-related 'quakes.

"As West Virginians were learning Thursday of a devastating chemical spill in the Elk River that has rendered water undrinkable for 300,000 people, the US House of Representatives was busy gutting federal hazardous-waste cleanup law."


Any opinions here not quotes from the week's news reports are my own.
Alan Tootill

News As It Came In with links to original stories

Monday

Investors: fracking will cut bills

Policing the Barton Moss fracking site has cost the taxpayer £300,000

Fracking contamination more common than US states report, says new review

PRESS RELEASE: FRACKING CAMP DISPUTE POLICE CLAIM THAT FLARE FIRED AT HELICOPTER

Tuesday

Anti-fracking protesters claim police using incident involving flare 'aimed at aircraft' as an excuse to search through camp

Fracking boss bans locals from recording 'engagement' talks

Anti-fracking protesters arrested after gluing themselves into car blocking Salford site

Anti-fracking protesters SUPERGLUE themselves to car in attempt to blockade drilling site

Wednesday

Tory supporters: do you realise that fracking is messier and nastier than wind turbines?

Balcombe fracking protesters 'not given enough arrest warning'

Thursday

People living in fracking areas set to get more compensation

Newly released NY energy plan mum on fracking

Fracking absent in NY's new long-term energy plan

Up to 2,000 frack wells a year needed to cut gas bills: Cost benefits may only be achieved by 'major disruption to landscape'

Owen Paterson at odds with David Cameron over claims winter storm Hercules was linked to climate change

Friday

Latest: Protest against fracking underway at Townhall

Friends of the Earth warn over fracking in Northern Ireland

Anti-fracking protesters set-up camp outside Swinton police station

Fracking wastewater radioactivity reduced with acid mine drainage, finds study

Balcombe fracking: Campaigners cleared over log protest

Balcombe anti-fracking activists cleared of obstructing highway charges

Anti-fracking defendants found not guilty as movement grows

Wigan: Anti-fracking campaigners rally

Saturday

Blowback for Disney As Pro-Fracking Elementary School Tour Exposed

Total to invest £30m in Britain’s shale gas hunt

France's Total to explore for shale in Britain

Shale gas views row

Anti-fracking protesters appear in court

Shaking Kansas: With an increase in earthquakes, many wonder if fracking is the cause

US House passed bill ravaging toxic-waste law - on same day as W. Virginia chemical spill

Sunday

Increase in Texas quakes raise fracking concerns

Video: Barton Moss Anti-fracking protesters taking part in demonstration march

Anti-fracking protest march staged at Barton Moss

Peaceful protest at fracking site

Anti-fracking campaigners march in Salford

  Links to other
anti-fracking sites