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Security guard not investigated for allegedly punching Sheffield tree protester

Tree-felling in Sheffield has caused controversy.
Tree-felling in Sheffield has caused controversy.
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Police are not investigating an allegation that a private security guard hit an anti-tree felling protester in the face in Sheffield - despite a judge’s ruling that a punch was thrown.

South Yorkshire Police said despite the recent ruling by Mr Justice Males in a High Court hearing and the publication of police logs which confirm the matter was reported to the force, the allegation is currently not under investigation as the victim has not come forward to make a formal complaint.

Private security guards were hired by Sheffield Council contractor Amey to remove demonstrators trying to halt tree-felling work in the city. On January 22, there were heated confrontations between campaigners and the security guards on Meersbrook Park Road, including the incident in which a punch was allegedly thrown.

In June, Justice Males dismissed an application by the council to send another tree campaigner Paul Brooke to jail for breaching a protest injunction later in the same day after accepting Mr Brooke had a “genuine, albeit mistaken” belief a female protester was being injured by security guards.

Mr Brooke’s actions had come shortly after he was told about the earlier incident involving the punch. The judge ruled: “A film of this incident (which Mr Brooke did not see at the time) does show that a punch was thrown by one of the security staff. There was no evidence in the hearing before me about the circumstances which led to the punch being thrown and it is unnecessary to make any finding about it.”

Newly-released police logs have now revealed that on March 1, police received a complaint from a person who said they had witnessed “one of the security personnel strike a protester by delivering an uppercut to the head” and that police officers who had been in attendance were “totally impassive despite repeated pleas of help from onlookers”.

The complaint said several videos were available of what had happened on Meersbrook Park Road.

Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley said: “In respect of the assault allegation, no formal complaint was made to South Yorkshire Police in relation to this matter, and the victim has not identified themselves to us, therefore the matter is not currently under investigation.

“A number of complaints were received across the duration of the tree activity, and these have been dealt with by our Professional Standards Department. Many have been dealt with through local resolution, where the officers and complainants were spoken with and the matter resolved with all parties’ content with the outcome.”

Tree-felling work in the city has been on hold since March as the council and Amey review the way it is carried out.