AFTER 25 hours and 10 minutes the #wedemandtherights campaign has its first response from a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to its set of 16 detailed questions concerning the recent INEOS High Court injunctions and the policing of fracking demonstrations.
In answer to our 831-word covering letter and question set, John Campion (Conservative), Crime Commissioner for West Mercia Police, responded in just 14 words – nine of which merely confirmed his identity:
“The West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, has no comment on this.”
Mr Campion – who promised in his 2016 election that he would be a “true community champion” – is paid £75,000 from the public purse; his deputy is paid £40,000. Additionally the Commissioner’s team include a Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer, paid £99,350, a Head of Commissioning, paid £58,791, and a team of 15.5 full time equivalent staff whose salaries come in at more than £550,000 – a total salary budget for the West Mercia PCC office of more than £800,000 a year.
We will update the list of answers received from each PCC as we get them, here.
Earlier this year, in August, Keith Taylor MEP submitted 37 Freedom of Information questions to West Mercia Police about its policing of fracking – one of them specifically about “slow walking” and whether the West Mercia force had any specific guidelines on how to deal with this matter. Mr Taylor was told that no drilling licences had been granted within the force boundary and all his subsequent questions were marked “not applicable”.
Unlike the questions of Mr Taylor, however, our questions were of a more general nature. Mr Campion could easily have expressed an opinion on every single one of them, including the question: “Does the commissioner believe that slow-walking and lock-ons should be considered legitimate acts of protest” and “Does the commissioner believe that the INEOS injunctions upheld in the High Court on 23 November represent a threat to civil liberties.”
The #wedemandtherights campaign is backed by by Arfon Jones (@ArfonJ), PCC for North Wales, who believes that the INEOS High Court injunctions against fracking protestors “erode” civil liberties. He believes that as elected representatives of their communities, all 41 of his fellow crime commissioners have a duty to state their positions with regard to the policing of fracking protests, and answer the questions of the large anti-fracking community. Our campaign is also backed by Mike Amesbury (@MikeAmesbury), MP for Weaver Vale in Cheshire.
This afternoon (30 November) Keith Taylor (@GreenKeithMEP) added his backing to the campaign, saying: “I will happily support a campaign looking for answers from publicly funded PCCs to vitally important questions about the policing of fracking/environmental protests.”
Add your voice to the Twitter campaign and make your voice heard, and remember to use the hashtag #wedemandtherights. More details of the campaign are explained here.
Here is the campaign’s full list of questions that we have asked all 40 PCCs, and the Mayors of London and Greater Manchester, to answer in full:
- 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?