Home Secretary tells police to 'strike the right balance' after Sheffield tree arrests

HOME SECRETARY Amber Rudd has reminded police forces of the need to respect peaceful protest following the controversy surrounding a Sheffield Council tree-cutting operation.

Amber Rudd

Ms Rudd acknowledged the decision to arrest three local residents, including two pensioners, by police accompanying council workers intent on cutting down trees may have been “tricky”.

The incident last month began when council workers arrived in Rustlings Road at 5am, accompanied by police, to cut down the trees.

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The council later apologised for its decision to attempt the work at such an early hour, which it said was in the interests of “public safety”.

It has promised future work will be carried out after 7am and residents given “timely” notice of any decision to remove trees,

Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg asked Ms Rudd about the incident in the Commons after meeting 70-year-old retired lecturer Jenny Hockey, one of those arrested.

The Home Secretary said: It is a local matter, of course, but it sounds like that important balance we tread between peaceful protest and responding to the law might have been handled in a rather tricky way in his constituency.

“I would always urge that peaceful protest is allowed, but I wonder sometimes whether police forces strike the right balance, as in the example he has given.”

The chopping down of trees as part of road improvement works has been the subject of repeated protests in Sheffield.

Sheffield councillors will debate a motion today describing the authority’s actions as “wholly disproportionate and unfitting in a modern, open liberal democracy”.