(this last link contains the answers of Arfon Jones, the North Wales PCC)
***Please take the time to leave your comments by using the Comments box at the bottom of this page. I will forward all of them to all the PCCs for their response, and add them to the file I intend to give my local MP***
The questions we asked about fracking, the High Court injunctions that undermine the right to protest at INEOS-owned drilling sites, and the policing of fracking demonstrations, are at the bottom of the page
Northumbria (Dame Vera Baird QC, Labour)
Time to respond: 216 hours
Dame Vera at least took the time to write a personal response, but failed to answer our questions specifically.
It came as something of a surprise to me that, included in the footer of the email for the official office of the Northumbria PCC, was a direct advertising link to Amazon – where Dame Vera’s book, Headlines from the First Three Years, is being sold for £5.99. In the blurb on Amazon, Dame Vera outlines at some considerable length details of three trial schemes developed by her and Northumbria Police between 2012 and 2015 that form the basis of her book – so it is surprising that a PCC with such a strong legal connection (she is a QC) seems unable or unwilling to address our specific questions. It also seemed somewhat strange that the official PCC office communications email is being used to advertise a product authored by its own commissioner.
Here is Dame Vera’s reponse to the 16 questions:
“Dear Mr Kenyon,
I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your recent letter dated 29 November 2017 and your request for clarification regarding a recent High Court decision regarding the policing of fracking protests.
Whilst we have no fracking sites here in Northumbria, it is clear that there is a need to recognise and respect the right for those who wish to protest. Issues such as hydraulic fracking can often generate conflicting views, therefore the subsequent policing of such a protest must be done with complete fairness and impartiality.
There is a need for officers to balance the right of those who wish to peacefully protest and the rights of the wider public. Officers have a lawful duty to intervene and take the appropriate action where crimes have been committed. It is important to note that as Police and Crime Commissioner, I have no role in operational matters which by law remain under the remit of the Temporary Chief Constable, Mr Winton Keenen. Nevertheless, it is important that local partners work together collectively to ensure the successful delivery of such an event.
If there are any concerns arising from the policing of such an event, rest assured that there are sufficient avenues for such matters to be investigated via the Professional Standards Department of Northumbria Police. Once again, thank you for taking the time to write to me.
Lancashire (Clive Grunshaw, Labour)
Time to respond: 224 hours
Of all the PCCs questioned, we would have expected full answers to all our questions from Mr Grunshaw, into whose area the controversial Barton Moss and Preston New Road sites fall into. However, Mr Grunshaw chose to speak via an unnamed “Spokesperson for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire”. In fact, Mr Grunshaw is not named anywhere in the response email as even being the Lancashire PCC (we had to find this information out for ourselves).
Anyway, here is the response from the Lancashire PCC office:
“The Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner has written and spoken on the record on many occasions about the policing of protests and has visited the site at Preston New Road to see the policing operation and meeting protesters.
When dealing with protests, the primary aim of the police operation has been public safety. Officers at the site have to strike a balance between ensuring protesters are able to safely exercise their right to lawful protest, while also allowing companies and local people to go about their daily business.
It is the Police and Crime Commissioner’s responsibility to hold the Chief Constable to account on behalf of the public. However, this office recognises the importance of operational independence which is enshrined in the law that established the role of Police and Crime Commissioners.”
Merseyside (Jane Kennedy, Labour)
Time to respond: 152 hours
Ms Kennedy did not reply directly, her response was instead made for her by Chloe Griffiths,
the press secretary. For the record here is her expression of minimalism. Note that Ms Kennedy (via Ms Griffiths) defers to Mr Munro’s (Surrey PCC) answers, and is incapable of speaking for herself.
“Many thanks for your email to Merseyside’s PCC, Jane Kennedy. The allocation of police resources and policing of fracking sites is an operational matter and, as such, falls under the remit of the Chief Constable. The PCC endorses the response provided by Surrey PCC David Munro as APCC [Association of Police and Crime Commisioners] lead for Equalities, Diversity and Human Rights (EDHR).”
Editor’s response: So much for the PCC’s role being to scrutinise the Chief Constable – which was the big selling point when PCCs were first introduced in 2012. Allocation of resources and the policing of fracking sites is an “operational matter”, says Ms Kennedy – which more than implies that she considers it a matter that cannot be scrutinised by her (i.e. part of her job).
To me, this appears a dereliction of duty; how can the public have confidence in a PCC who apparently does not believe that she is there to exert influence over her Chief Constable when it comes to operational matters. Compare this with Arfon Jones, who made his feelings known, very strongly, to his Chief Constable, when it came to the issue of withdrawing North Wales officers from playing a supporting role at the Cuadrilla site at Preston New Road in Lancashire – even though, by his own admission, he did not have the power to make a final decision.
Avon & Somerset (Sue Mountstevens, Independent)
Time to respond: 124 hours
Ms Mountstevens gives an answer of reasonable length, but does not really make any attempt to answer the 16 questions as asked by shedding any kind of light on her personal views about “slow walking” or lock-ons” as forms of legitimate of protest or otherwise; or about the use of Section 14; or about the NETPOL report; or indeed about much else that was asked! Here is her statement:
“As an elected Police and Crime Commissioner, it is my role to act as a bridge between the police and local people, ensuring the views of the communities of Avon and Somerset are represented in policing. Local people are entitled to have differing views and to be respected when actively championing these in the form of law-abiding protests.
I am fully aware of the public interest in fracking across the country and understand that it is a particularly emotive issue, generating many conflicting opinions. As the voice of the local people of Avon and Somerset, I am keen to take the time to listen to all who have been affected one way or another by, or have concerns about fracking.
Where people choose to exercise their views in the form of a protest, it must be understood that where the law is broken, the police must be allowed to respond accordingly. In a world where we police by consent, we trust the police to keep us safe and respond to unlawful behaviour effectively, impartially and proportionately.
Although I have no say over operational policing matters, which includes the policing of demonstrations, I am committed to listening to the views of all parties involved. Local people must be given the chance to have their say; the police must be able to do their job when required and lawful businesses must be allowed to operate freely.
In responding to demonstrations, the Constabulary are committed to operating transparently and openly – delivering the organisations’ business objectives; respecting the rights of individuals to protest; minimising the disruption for local people and ensuring public safety. Regular engagement between the police and interested parties is also vital.
Should local people have concerns about the actions of the police, in relation to protests or otherwise, these can also be shared with me and will be looked into. As long as local people keep talking to me, I will continue sharing your thoughts with the Chief Constable to scrutinise, help influence and improve future policing.”
Cleveland (Barry Coppinger, Labour)
Time to respond: 49 hours
Mr Coppinger – who in his election material in 2016 said “as PCC I represent all local people” – couldn’t be bothered to take the time to respond to the questions personally, and hinted that there are now a few feathers being ruffled when he said he was “aware” of Mr Munro’s (PCC Norfolk) reply. Clearly the PCCs are now communicating with each other (somewhat more actively than they are with me or the “local people” they claim to represent). I say Mr Coppinger was “aware”. Actually the response was a summary one from the office manager, John Bage. For the record, here it is:
“Thank you for your email of 29 November 2017.
Barry Coppinger, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Cleveland has asked me to respond on his behalf.
The PCC is aware that Police & Crime Commissioner David Munro has replied directly to your email and notes the content of Commissioner Munro’s response.
Commissioner Coppinger further notes that there are presently no fracking sites in the Cleveland police area. In any event, in relation to the general issue of policing of protest and demonstration as and when they arise, Commissioner Coppinger respects the operational independence of Cleveland Police whilst expecting the police to balance their duty to maintain public order and impact upon community life, with the positive duty upon policing to facilitate lawful and peaceful protest.
Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
Norfolk (Lorne Green, Conservative)
Time to respond: 31.5 hours
Mr Green either could not be bothered to respond, or was not even made aware of the questions. The PA to the Chief Executive replied with the following:
“I am writing in response to your email message of 29th November 2017 addressed to the PCCs with particular reference to issues related to fracking. I believe, Mr Kenyon, there are authorities within parts of the country where fracking is an issue who would be better placed to respond to your questions.
With kind regards
Editor’s response: For your information Mr Green (a.k.a. Amanda Taylor-Pope), the people of Norfolk feel strongly enough about fracking to have their own Facebook page. It’s not hard to find Mr Green. It’s called Norfolk Against Fracking. You might also like to know that the residents of Norfolk are concerned enough about large quantities of silica sand being supplied to the fracking industry from West Norfolk that they have started up a petition against it, that, to date 578 people have signed. So I think fracking IS an issue in your area; and even if it wasn’t, there were plenty of questions you could have answered!
In the interests of fairness I sent Amanda Taylor-Pope a follow up email, querying whether the response received was in fact Mr Green’s and not hers. Apparently it was (see her response, right) – Mr Green took the time to dictate his sentence-long response to her. Dictate? Why not respond in person?
But maybe Mr Green has been too busy spending his time apologising profusely after he was pulled up for saying he would not let Norfolk hire any more PCSOs if he “had all the money in the world”. After the Eastern Daily Press and the PCSO union, UNISON, called him to account over his comments, Mr Green issued a grovelling apology on Twitter (right) and decided that PCSOs were, after all, “valued members of the Norfolk Constabulary”.
Surrey (David Munro, Conservative)
Time to respond: 27.5 hours
Mr Munro, who is the portfolio holder for human rights across all the commissioners’ offices, answered, at most, two of our questions, and instead chose to answer a lot that we did not ask:
“I believe recognising and respecting the rights of those who wish to legitimately protest is of fundamental importance to the police service.
However it is of equal importance that any protest must remain within the confines of the law. Where the law is broken, police officers must be allowed to take to the appropriate action and provide an effective, lawful and proportionate response to the situation.
Whilst issues such as hydraulic fracturing can often generate conflicting views, police officers must carry out their duties with complete fairness and impartiality.
A balance has to be struck between facilitating peaceful protest and the rights of the wider public, including commercial businesses, to safely go about their lawful activities.
One of the key roles of a Police and Crime Commissioner is to hold Chief Constables to account on behalf of the public. At the same time, Commissioners must also maintain the operational independence of forces to police protests.
These situations are not always easy and officers often find themselves caught between the competing demands of facilitating peaceful protest and allowing companies to conduct their lawful business.
I think it is vital that all sides work with the police so that a dialogue can be established around what is it acceptable to ensure that any protest remains peaceful and within the limits of the law.
If there are any concerns about the actions of the police, a robust complaints procedure is in place to ensure that individual incidents can be fully investigated.
I believe any police response to protest must be lawful, justified, proportionate and necessary whilst keeping public safety as the number one priority.”
West Mercia (John Campion, Conservative)
Time to respond: 25 hours
Mr Campion is another who does not seem to even have the time or the courtesy to respond personally to the detailed questions put to him. The response, penned by the laughably titled “Communications and Engagement Officer”, Elizabeth Piggins, reads:
“The West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, has no comment on this.“
Editor’s response: That’s not really good enough Mr Campion, especially when you are being paid £75,000 a year to be publicly accountable.
The email cover letter
The email cover letter, sent out to all PCCs early on 29 November, 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.