Fracking police costs ‘should be met nationally’

27 September 2017......     North Yorkshire Police work to free protestors chained together in the entrance to Third Energy's fracking site in Kirby Misperton near Malton. Picture Tony Johnson.
27 September 2017...... North Yorkshire Police work to free protestors chained together in the entrance to Third Energy's fracking site in Kirby Misperton near Malton. Picture Tony Johnson.
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Rising costs for policing of fracking protests should not be paid for on a local level, an MP has said, warning this is clearly a “national protest”.

Dozens of arrests have been made in North Yorkshire at protests in the village of Kirby Misperton, at a cost totalling more than £621,000. Now it emerges that more arrests have been made at protest sites in the south of the region, with concern that unrest is set to increase as developers’ plans progress. Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Malton and Thirsk, has revealed that he has met with policing minister Nick Hurd, with further meetings set for this month as he calls for financial support.

“I am hoping to get the support of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, to make the case that North Yorkshire should only stand reduced costs of policing the area as it is clearly a national protest,” he said. Further meetings are arranged for February 27. Mrs Mulligan has previously said she was keeping “a close eye” on the bill. She has already written to the Government in anticipation of costs exceeding one per cent of the budget or £1.4m, after which the force can apply for financial help.

A total of 81 people have now been arrested at protests in North Yorkshire since September, over offences such as aggravated trespass, obstruction of a highway, and assault of a police officer.

In this case, North Yorkshire Police has revealed, a police officer was pushed to the ground by a group of people in October, suffering an ankle injury after a metal ‘lock-on’ device was pushed onto his foot. Two people have been charged in connection with the incident. The force, reiterating its role in facilitating peaceful protest at the site, has said the key challenge is in balancing the rights and wishes of everybody - protesters, businesses and residents going about their daily lives without disruption.

“We will continue to respond proportionately to any protest activity,” said Supt Alisdair Dey, commander for Scarborough and Ryedale. “The safety and well-being of everyone at Kirby Misperton is our priority.”

At the peak of the protests, North Yorkshire Police has said, in days in September and October, up to 70 officers were deployed at the site at a time. But, the force added, this is assessed continuously in proportion to the protest and at quieter times, such as in January, the only officers present at the site were a few liaison officers who were redeployed when there was no activity.

When asked if officers had been subjected to unwelcome attention, the force responded that officers were carrying out their job in sometimes difficult circumstances.

“We know that there are very different views about hydraulic fracturing, but as the local police, our responsibility is to carry out our duties impartially,” said Supt Dey.

“Officers are doing their job professionally, in sometimes difficult circumstances. We are completely impartial with regards to the ongoing debate in relation to hydraulic fracturing.”

Arrests have been made in the south of the region as a protest camp is established in a village near Doncaster, where iGas has permission for exploratory drilling.

Nottinghamshire Police has said that three arrests have been made in Misson since December. Chair of the parish council, Jayne Watson, said a camp, set up sympathetically, was established a month ago and has been growing in size.

“We’ve not had any reports of any problems,” she added. “We can expect that there will be growth in the camp and potentially further protests.”

In a rural community which rarely saw police, she added, it was “galling” to have to pay for the policing of protests.