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BARTON MOSS ANTI FRACKING COURT CASES COLLAPSE WITH NOT GUILTY VERDICTS
 

Star date: 23rd January 2016

SALFORD SLOW WALKING ANTI-FRACKING PROTESTS RULED LEGITIMATE

"The state sought to criminalise a legitimate form of protest" Simon Pook, solicitor

A test case against two anti-fracking `slow walk' protectors arrested at Barton Moss in 2014 by Greater Manchester Police, has resulted in a not guilty verdict at Manchester Magistrates Court, meaning that all future similar `aggravated trespass' cases could be dropped.

In acquitting the pair, District Judge Sanders said "They were entitled to demonstrate, were entitled to walk along Barton Moss Road". However the infamous `doughnut' protest, in which a protector knelt down on Barton Moss Road, did result in a guilty verdict.

Full details here...


Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014 Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014 Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014
Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014 Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014 Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014
Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014 Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014 Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014
Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014 Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014 Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014
Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014 Barton Moss Anti-Fracking Protest 18th Feb 2014
click image to enlarge

"Their culpability, such as it was, was not to walk at the speed which had been imposed upon protesters by the police without warning or explanation..." District Judge Sanders

The day was 18th February 2014, when protectors witnessed some of the worst policing of the Barton Moss anti-fracking protests at the IGas exploratory drilling site in Irlam.

It was designated as a half term Children's Day at the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp with crafts, balloons and games. But once the daily slow walk had begun, aimed delaying lorries exiting the IGas site, things turned decidedly ugly.

About ten minutes into the walk the regular officers who had been policing the peaceful protest were replaced by the Greater Manchester Police Tactical Aid Unit (TAU), which seemed determined to cause alarm and distress by forcing people to `walk' at a ridiculously fast pace, creating a stampede situation.

Carmen Shiels, who lives in Irlam and had come down to Barton Moss Lane to see what was happening, couldn't believe what she was witnessing...

"I'm a local resident, a peaceful person, I've never demonstrated before in my life, I'm not a politically aware person, just easy going, believe the Government, believe people, but do you know what? I am staggered with what I've seen" she told the Salford Star on the day "It breaks my heart."

"I came down, watched it go past, stood on the side and just cried, watching the police just pushing people down this footpath" she added.

Many of those who didn't to conform to the TAU `race' down Barton Moss Lane, were plucked out of the line and arrested. Last week, almost two years on from the day, three of those arrested on 18th February 2014 finally had their cases heard at Manchester Magistrates Court. And the district judge, N Sanders, agreed with the protectors' version of events, having reviewed the evidence, and found two of them not guilty of `aggravated trespass' – in what is being seen as a test case for future hearings.

The Salford Star has now obtained the full transcript of the verdict, which makes shocking reading and a shocking indictment of the Greater Manchester Police behaviour. We begin with the case against John Wasilewski and David Cohen, who were both arrested for, basically walking down Barton Moss Road, a public highway...

It's worth quoting in full the judge's summing up...

"Having reviewed the evidence, it is clear that both were initially compliant with the police request to start moving in front of the police line and were making steady progress along Barton Moss Road until (through no fault of theirs) progress stalled. 

"Without any warning (or indeed clear rationale) the police changed their tactics and sought to significantly increase the pace of the protesters. Neither Mr Cohen nor Mr Wasilewski wished to progress at this faster pace and resisted attempts to make them walk faster. In both cases, but separated by time, they had the misfortune to find themselves in front of PC Genge who interpreted this resistance as deliberate pushing back. 

"It would appear that he gave each of them some warning although I cannot be sure how clear that was in amongst the noise of the demonstration, and he subsequently pulled each defendant though the line to be arrested for the offence of aggravated trespass.

"At no time did either defendant stop in the road, or do anything particularly different that other demonstrators present that day. The slow walk had been tolerated and managed by the authorities on a number of other occasions both that day and over the preceding weeks and months. It is clear to me that, on this occasion, the pace set by the Level 1 officers [TAU] was substantially different to that which was normally acceptable to the authorities, and indeed which had been acceptable during the earlier part of the walk. 

"The video shows that the lorries had been making slow but steady progress down Barton Moss Road towards the A57 behind the cordon. In all the surrounding circumstances, I cannot be sure on balance that the actions of either Mr Cohen or Mr Wasilewski that day were unreasonable. They were entitled to demonstrate, were entitled to walk along Barton Moss Road, had been generally compliant with the police, and their actions were specifically directed towards the object of their protest and not the wider public.

"Their culpability, such as it was, was not to walk at the speed which had been imposed upon protesters by the police without warning or explanation at some point during the walk from the drilling site to the A57. The prosecution has not proved to me, so that I am sure, that in these circumstances the actions of either of these two defendants interfered unreasonably with the lawful use of Barton Moss Road by other members of the public for passage along it when balanced with the undoubted rights which the protesters had to demonstrate on that path. In the circumstances, Mr Cohen and Mr Wasilewski are entitled to be acquitted of this charge..."

Commenting on the verdict, Simon Pook of Robert Lizar Solicitors, which instructed Richard Brigden of GCN to represent the defendants, slated the state, which `sought to criminalise a legitimate form of protest...'

"I welcome the Court judgment that slow walking had been accepted by Greater Manchester Police on a number of previous occasions, and, as such, it did not amount to a criminal offence of aggravated trespass" he said "The Barton Moss protectors said from day one that their slow walk was part of a lawful and peaceful protest. 

"It is essential that the right to lawful protest is defended, particularly when the agents of the state act in a contradictory and inconsistent manner" he explained "As a result of the inconsistent approach the state sought to criminalise a legitimate form of protest.

"Policing of protest must be consistent and people must be able to freely exercise their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights, namely Article 10 and 11" he added "It is accepted that their rights must be balanced against  the rights of others. It appears to me the balancing exercise does not extend to inconsistent policing strategy..."

At the time of these protests, Salford people present were begging for Salford councillors and Salford Mayor Ian Stewart to go down and witness what was happening to their citizens. But not once throughout the protest did they appear, much to their absolute shame.

Even more shameful was the fact that a Memorandum of Understanding unearthed by police monitoring group, Netpol, showed that, behind the scenes, Salford Council was at the centre of operations and had "clear lines of communication" with IGas and GMP (see previous Salford Star article – click here).

Meanwhile, at the Magistrates Court last week, Boris Roscin, was found guilty of aggravated trespass, following his infamous `doughnut' protest. Basically, Boris knelt down in front of the approaching police lines with a plate full of doughnuts and a sign reading `What will you tell your grandkids?'. He was arrested on the spot.

"PC O'Connell warned Mr. Roscin that he was committing an offence, but that warning was ignored and Mr. Roscin repeatedly told the Officer that he did not recognise the Officer's authority" the judge noted "When told that he was committing an offence and that he would be arrested he said, `I do not understand and I do not consent to being kidnapped'.

"Taking all the factors into account and when conducting the balancing exercise that is required, I am satisfied so that I am sure that his actions in kneeling down on the highway and private road in front of vehicles was an unreasonable use of the highway and that at that point Mr Roscin became a trespasser on the land" the judge concluded "Furthermore, I am satisfied to the criminal standard that in doing so he intended to disrupt and/or obstruct the lawful activity taking place on that land. In the circumstances, I find him guilty of the offence of aggravated trespass."

The repercussions of these three test cases for those who were arrested at Barton Moss, and are still awaiting verdicts, are massive. It appears that all those who were arrested for `slow walking' `offences' will now have their cases dropped, while those who were involved in lock-ons will still have to face trials.

The Salford Star understands that the vast majority of arrests at Barton Moss happened while people were exercising their democratic right to protest and walk down a public highway. As Simon Pook explains, "the state sought to criminalise a legitimate form of protest..."


For a full account of the actions of the GM Police on 18th February 2014 see previous Salford Star article – click here

Dave Cohen wrote
at 3:15:38 AM on Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Hi Steve. Thanks. The police behaved outrageously on the day and acted like bullies. There was a childrens party earlier on and to think they set a fearful example to those youngsters present. How bad is that.
 
Tom Paine wrote
at 12:17:36 AM on Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Shouldn't those coppers be out catching criminals? As for their bullying, they'd run a mile if they had to deal with anything more than peaceful protesters, women, children and students. Get them in the army, I say. That'd make men of them! Well done Dave! Your brother Steve
 
kevin done wrote
at 1:29:02 AM on Sunday, January 24, 2016
the police lost the respect of a big group of local people for there action on peaceful protest.the tau knew they could treat people with violence without any repercussions.well done to the salford star for reporting and bringing the real news to the local community.shame on g mp for there wrong doing
 
James Larkin wrote
at 11:24:45 AM on Saturday, January 23, 2016
It is off note that Officer Genge features here. The same officer was involved in an investigation of misconduct against anti fascist activist in Bolton. Genge went on to be cleared of any wrong doing by an internal investigation. Where does this judgement leave Tony Lloyed whitewash report where his report exonerated Greater Manchestet Police? The same report where he gave the final say on the content to GMP! Well done Salford Starr for following these cases. Perhaps GMP had hoped the public would have forgotten about The Battle of Barton Moss.
 
dave wrote
at 11:24:35 AM on Saturday, January 23, 2016
Greater Manchester police, and specifically the TAU have acted outragiously. They do not facilitate peace full protest as they claim, they act unlawfully using road traffic acts on a public foot path that gives right of way to pedestrians, not massive trucks. GMP, TAU I gas private army! Shame on you.
 
CBP wrote
at 11:24:21 AM on Saturday, January 23, 2016
Is anyone keeping tally of the "guilty v not guilty/ dropped case" count from the Barton Moss cases? It would be really interesting to see what the result is at the final trial and how much this operation has cost in prosecution legal fees.
 
debbie prince wrote
at 10:22:22 AM on Saturday, January 23, 2016
Most of the TAU are army rejects or have small "member" syndrome, I have witnessed those thugs on many occasions, and not at Barton moss unfortunately it was a place I couldn't attend
 
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