TODAY wideopenroads.co.uk launches its #wedemandtherights challenge to ALL 40 Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales – plus the mayors of London and Greater Manchester – to answer, in full, a series of detailed questions about civil liberties, the INEOS v THE PEOPLE High Court injunctions, the threat to the right to protest, and their own electoral accountability.
The commissioners – as well as mayors Sadiq Khan and twice-Labour-leadership-candidate Andy Burnham – are reminded in the header of an email sent out in the early hours of this morning (29 November), that they collectively pocket nearly £3.5 million a year from the public purse (an average of about £80,000 each). This being the case, it is put to them that the least they can do to justify such salaries is comply with a simple request for answers.
Surge of support
Hundreds of people visited the www.wideopenroads.co.uk website yesterday (28 November) after we broke the story that North Wales Police Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones, believed that the INEOS High Court injunctions “erode” civil liberties. He tweeted in response to our article ‘The INEOS injunctions: Undermining the right to protest‘ (26 November): “Please read if you’re interested in the erosion of our civil rights by the state.”
Throughout the day, and after we posted yesterday’s (28 November) follow-up article ‘Crime commissioner says INEOS injunctions ‘erode’ civil liberties‘, scores of ordinary people tweeted their support on our Twitter channel @wide_openroads; and many more ‘Liked’ or ‘Shared’ content posted by us to various anti-fracking group pages, nationwide. The article page itself has now attracted 302 direct Facebook shares – plus countless further shares beyond this number which we cannot quantify.
Joe Boyd and Arfon Jones wholeheartedly support the #wedemandtherights campaign for answers. Mike Amesbury, Labour MP for Weaver Vale (@MikeAmesbury), a keen opponent of the INEOS injunctions, added his voice to the campaign on Wednesday (29 November).
On Thursday (30 November) Keith Taylor MEP (@GreenKeith) added his backing: He said: “I’ll happily support a campaign looking for answers from publicly funded PCCs to vitally important questions about the policing of fracking/environmental protests.”
wideopenroads.co.uk is now urging followers of the campaign to retweet this tweet to help build momentum. Labour MP for Weaver Vale, Cheshire – Mike Amesbury (@MikeAmesbury) – is shown in a video below at an anti-fracking demo held in Ellesmere Port (apologies for the camera wobble at the beginning), less than two weeks ago, speaking passionately about “people power“, “meetings behind closed doors” and telling INEOS to “frack off“. As our local MP, he has pledged to do all he can to stop the drive to frack for shale gas in our constituency. If the commissioners fail to act, or answer the questions put to them, the #wedemandtherights campaign will be looking to Mr Amesbury to raise a Parliamentary question on what the point, exactly, is, of a crime commissioner who is not prepared to answer questions put to him or her by the very people that elect them and pay their hefty salaries.
To symbolise our support for renewable energies, wideopenroads.co.uk has changed its usual header and accent colours on this site from purple to green.
Meanwhile, Arfon Jones is backing our campaign for answers, and urging his commissioner colleagues to respond to our questions in full. Mr Jones said:
“I am fully behind this campaign. I am on the record as an anti-fracker and this [High Court] injunction is just disproportionate interference in the right to protest. I wish the two campaigners Joe Boyd and Joe Corré all the best in their appeal.”
Joe Boyd, one of the two named Defendants who came forward to fight the injunctions after they were initially granted ex parte, behind closed doors, in July, said:
“It’s great to see independent journalism leading the way and getting to the heart of a deeply worrying decision in the High Court last week. The judgement in the case brought by INEOS is a direct attack on civil liberties. It’s also encouraging to see – just like the recently retired police officer in South Yorkshire who made a witness statement at the High Court – that Arfon Jones has also put his head above the parapet.
“Civil liberties affect us all and one would hope many other Police and Crime Commissioners express similar feelings and also speak out accordingly.”
“The challenge will go on until civil liberties are restored to their rightful place. Many protestors have been treated like terrorists for many years, with atrocious policing from a number of forces across the UK, which won’t be forgotten in a long, long time. For the crime commissioners to support an injunction after that kind of policing will leave a bitter taste for many citizens and campaigners in communities that are affected right across the UK.”
Use the #wedemandtherights hashtag to create momentum on Twitter. Subscribe to this website to keep in touch as the answers come back (or don’t)…
The email cover letter
The email cover letter, sent out to all PCCs in the early hours of this morning, reads:
Please find attached a list of urgent media questions for the attention of all Police Crime Commissioners in England and Wales, as well as the Mayors of London and Greater Manchester.
This is in connection with the perceived threat to civil liberties, and the ability going forward of protest groups to mount effective protest, in the wake of last week’s decision by the High Court to confirm the unprecedented and broad-ranging civil injunctions in favour of shale gas explorer INEOS against “persons unknown”; as well as against named Defendants Joe Boyd and Joe Corré, who came forward voluntarily to challenge the original July injunctions of the High Court that were imposed, ex parte, in July. The attached email explains the position more clearly, and contains all my questions.
This call for answers is part of an independent campaign being run by my community news website, www.wideopenroads.co.uk, and is endorsed by one of your own commissioners – Arfon Jones, the Police Crime Commissioner for North Wales. It is also backed by at least hundreds of UK citizens who yesterday joined in the campaign via Twitter and Facebook. I feel sure more will follow. Fracking is a local and national issue that is within the remit of crime commissioners to become actively involved in, given that they are directly elected to scrutinise their respective forces, many of which have been called into action to police demonstrations at drilling and fracking sites across the UK .
At the head of this email is David Munro, Police Crime Commissioner for Surrey. This is quite deliberate as I am given to understand that he is portfolio lead for human rights. I would remind you that as you are all collectively paid nearly £3.5 million (about £80,000 each, on average) from the public purse, a huge number of people will be expecting a full response from each of you to all the questions, and not just a summary response, nor indeed a collective response.
I look forward to receiving all your responses, as do the hundreds upon hundreds of people who have actively supported this campaign in this, its first day.
Thank you for your cooperation
The email questions
“To the Police Crime Commissioners
Yesterday, the Police Crime Commissioner for North Wales, Arfon Jones, reacted to an article (‘The INEOS injunctions: Undermining the right to protest’ published by Cheshire community news website www.wideopenroads.co.uk, concerning the adverse impact upon civil liberties and the right to protest posed by the recent High Court judgement that confirmed injunctions imposed in favour of shale gas explorer INEOS.
With regard to the article (link below), Mr Jones tweeted to his 4,319 followers: “Please read if you’re interested in the erosion of our civil rights by the state.”
The full text of the article to which Mr Jones referred can be found here: http://wideopenroads.co.uk/2017/11/26/the-ineos-injunctions-undermining-the-right-to-protest/
Later in the day Mr Jones lent his full backing to a follow-up article (‘Crime commissioner says INEOS injunctions ‘erode’ civil liberties’) published by the same website, and which can be found here: http://wideopenroads.co.uk/2017/11/28/police-crime-commissioner-criticises-ineos-fracking-injunctions/
Mr Jones is in full support of these questions below being answered in full. He writes, in support of this campaign:
“This injunction is just disproportionate interference in the right to protest. I wish the two campaigners [the Defendants in the INEOS injunction case, Joe Boyd and Joe Corré] all the best in their appeal.”
In view of this, and of mounting social media support for this wideopenroads.co.uk campaign, please can each Police Crime Commissioner (or Mayor in the case of Greater Manchester and London) answer the following questions, one by one, and in full. A generalised summary response will not be considered appropriate in this case:
- In whose interest do the crime commissioners operate?
- As a publicly elected official, will the crime commissioner take steps to follow the weight of opinion in his/her police force area with regard to fracking? What efforts has (s)he made to ascertain the level of this opinion in his/her police force area?
- Having taken such efforts, will (s)he be prepared to influence operational decisions in his/her police force area in respect of allocation of police resources at fracking sites/ drilling sites both in his/her own area, and/or in respect of support of other police force area requests for back-up officer support?
- Does the crime commissioner believe that protest (generally) that does not in any way affect the activities (business or otherwise) of its intended target can be effective?
- If (s)he does, can (s)he explain how can it be effective?
- Would the crime commissioner agree that only a very small minority of arrests at anti-fracking demonstrations are for alleged crimes of violence?
- Does the crime commissioner support the use of Section 14 of the Public Order Act, which gives police discretionary power to impose conditions on the right to assembly if they feel that there is a risk of “serious public disorder, serious criminal damage or serious disruption to the life of the community”? If they do not, why are they allowing it to be used in their areas?
- Does the commissioner believe that slow-walking and lock-ons should be considered legitimate acts of protest?
- Does the crime commissioner endorse the September 2017 independent report of NETPOL, ‘Protecting the Environment is Not a Crime: A Report on the Policing of Anti-Fracking Protests During 2017’, which investigates the role of police at demonstrations throughout the UK but especially in Lancashire? If not, why not?
- Does the commissioner believe that the INEOS injunctions upheld in the High Court on 23 November represent a threat to civil liberties; and if not, how so?
- Is the crime commissioner supportive of civil injunctions with regard to law enforcement at fracking sites, or should the matter be left in the hands of the criminal courts?
- Will the crime commissioner be supportive of any other company(ies) that seek in future to revert to the civil courts as a way of protecting their business interests?
- Will the commissioner be putting pressure on the Government to listen to the overwhelming mass of public opinion against fracking?
- Does the commissioner believe that it is his/her role to try as best as possible to influence his police force’s operational decisions in line with the weight of public opinion in his/her police force area?
- Does the crime commissioner believe that, with regarding to the policing of fracking demonstrations, police officers are being forced into a position they do not want to be in?
- Is it the job of a crime commissioner to exert pressure as necessary, and where necessary – including upon national Government – to protect the interests of those local communities that directly elected them? If not, why not: and what is the point of having a local mandate, or indeed having a directly elected crime commissioner in the first place?
Thank you for your help, and I trust I will receive a prompt response. Many of our readers are waiting with interest to hear the answers to all these questions. For your information, all crime commissioners are being contacted with the same question list.
wideopenroads.co.uk will of course publish the answers as they come in, so please Subscribe to lend your support to the campaign using the Subscribe button on this page. Doing so will also ensure you get instant email notifications of new content on this site. Early automatic emails sent from the various PCC offices claim that a wait of 14 days might be expected, so it remains to be seen if they will react more quickly, in the face of social media pressure, or even at all. Either way, we will keep you updated…
Call to action
Can you help? I’m looking for someone to design a catchy flyer that can be used as a visual image to accompany this campaign for restoring our civil liberties and our right to demonstrate, preferably with www.wideopenroads.co.uk, Joe Boyd and Joe Corré mentioned somewhere on it…please post a copy so I can select one if you are able to help…or contact me using the form at the bottom of this page, or via the Comments box.
Finally, Joe Boyd has a crowdfunding site that is raising money to help fund his legal fees as he fights to overturn the INEOS injunctions. You can reach the site and pledge a donation, even as little as £10, by clicking here