As of 13th January 2014, for a temporary period news updates may be erratic.

>Week Ending 16th February 2014

UK news highlights

Barton Moss court ruling shows scandal of inefficient and ignorant policing and prosecution service. Heads should roll.

In a week where the media seems to have temporarily lost interest in fracking, we can only hope that they report the midweek court result which is likely to see the withdrawal of over a hundred charges against protectors for obstruction.

Reports came in on Wednesday of charges being likely to be thrown out because what police have claimed is a public highway is nothing of the kind, it is a public footpath, at best for vehicular use a private road. We may see all obstruction charges dropped.

This is a policing fiasco of the first order. The Greater Manchester Police have used aggressive behaviour and alleged violence (I say alleged only because there are now some 20 or more civil actions being prepared against them including wrongful arrest and use of unnecessary force) against the protectors. It is now a broad perception that the police are acting in the private interests of IGas, to the disbenefit of the public purse. This is a scandal. Only last week the Chief Constable was drawing to media attention the mounting cost of "policing" Barton Moss. And claiming aggression from the protectors in a fraudulent attempt to deflect blame for policing costs away from himself. His attempt to suggest that police time was taken away from normal police duties we have to set against the claim that many of the police at Barton Moss are on lucrative overtime.

This court ruling - and the lack of of any violent confrontation when due to media presence they for once stayed away from moving in and using strong-arm tactics - shows that the Chief Constable should face serious questioning over his use of his force. In an ideal world the first such serious questioning should come from the elected police and crime commissioner. However by his comments last week the commissioner made it plain which side he was on by hios failure to instigate any proper enquiry.

In the absence of full public apologies, not only to the protestors but the people of Greater Manchester for wasting their money in such scandalous fashion, both should go. An enquiry should also ask why the CPS has gone along with prosecuting on charges that are fundamentally legally flawed. They have shown serious errors of judgement. The prosecution of one protector - or rather legal observer - last week for refusing to give a test result when he had not been driving, is a prime example. It demonstrates - I back off from saying not for the first time, because I am not a historian of GMP - that the current administration and force is manifestly failing in its duty to protect the public and uphold, rather than break, the law.

The amassed evidence of incidents at Barton Moss, ranging from the fiasco of arresting a member of the public for drinking tea in the morning to the absurd and incredible accusation of devices being fired at police helicopters, which led to trashing of camper's possessions, can lead any reasonable person to the conclusion that the police are acting in a way designed to intimidate and by intimidation deter people from lawful protest. This is not just a series of occasional casual acts of violence or inappropriate action by individuals. It is part of an orchestrated policy-led campaign to eliminate opposition to fracking from those who - in increasing numbers now - see there is no longer any valid way of opposing through reasoned argument. If the opposition can not be stopped the particpants have to be discredited.

The only question now is how orchestrated is this campaign, how high does the authority go, and where does the buck stop? For the moment, in the absence of any other evidence, we can only say the responsibility lies with the Chief Constable and the Commissioner. As I said earlier. They should go. They have forfeited the trust of the protectors. They are losing the support of their local community. They have already lost the support of many previously impartial observers of the fracking war. Their actions have spoken far more than David Cameron's in bringing more people to oppose fracking. If fracking has to be defended by law change, by a police state that disregards even the laws we have, what is the arguable justification for fracking?

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

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