"Forcing campaigners to take on not only the shale gas and oil companies and their multinational partners but the full resources of the state is unacceptable in a democratic society." Netpol
During the anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss this year, Salford City Council largely played down its role, releasing virtually no statements, while no councillor or the City Mayor, Ian Stewart, actually visited the site to see for themselves the level of Greater Manchester Police activity, labelled `aggressive' and `intimidating' by local residents who were there (see previous Salford Star articles – click here and click here).
When councillors were questioned on this, they either argued that they had to remain neutral on the issue or said nothing. Yet, a Memorandum of Understanding drawn up in December 2013 shows that, behind the scenes, Salford Council was absolutely central to activities at Barton Moss, attending top level `Gold and Silver meetings' and daily meetings or video conferences with the Greater Manchester Police Silver Commander and IGas "where information and intelligence are discussed".
Salford Council also shared "public relations matters including press releases and branding" and agreed "clear lines of communication" with IGas and GMP. Indeed, IGas was to "lead on all media communications both proactive and reactive".
The Memorandum of Understanding was obtained by Nepol - the `Network for Police Monitoring' - under the Freedom of Information Act and the organisation questions the neutrality of all the parties involved – including IGas, GMP, Salford Council, Peel Estates (Peel Holdings), AGMA and `Manchester Barton Aerodrome'…
The Memorandum sets out the "ongoing cooperation and co-ordination between the Parties in order to promote and contribute to their mutual interests", and Netpol notes that…
"Instead of simply clarifying accountability for issues like site safety or contingency planning, what it reveals is that far from balancing equally the needs of both IGas and its local opponents, one side…had insider access to Gold and Silver senior police command meetings, daily briefings or video conferences with GMP's Silver Commander and shared police and local council information and intelligence. And the protesters didn't." (see full Netpol article – click here).
The Memorandum sets out clauses of confidentiality and secrecy, even how to deal with Freedom of Information requests which should be shared "with the Greater Manchester Silver Commander so an overview of requests and exemptions can be discussed."
Meanwhile, Appendix 11 sets out the Police Use of Force…
"The need for the minimum use of force required in the circumstances will be covered in all briefings. Police officers must only use the minimum amount of lawful force as is required in the circumstances and it is for each individual officer to justify the level of force that they elect to use. The planning of this operation has, from the outset, sought to plan to use the least amount of force necessary to achieve the strategic aims…" etc
Events at Barton Moss, in the eyes of those who were there, seemed to prove otherwise, with solicitor Simon Pook, from Robert Lizar Solicitors which represented many of those arrested (and subsequently acquitted) compiling a dossier for the United Nations on police aggression (see here).
Having read the Memorandum, Pook told the Salford Star "This document raises serious questions as to the violent actions of Greater Manchester Police at Barton Moss.
"I have always expressed my concern that the police appeared to be acting with impunity, and that a Public Inquiry needs to look at just how far up the command was the order given" he added "What knowledge did Greater Manchester Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd have regarding this document?"
Netpol also questions the neutrality of the GMP…
"Sir Peter Fahy's insistence that his force's relationship with IGas was neutral and impartial has been weakened further by comments made by Deputy District Judge Saunders at Manchester Magistrates Court on 3 July" it comments "Acquitting Barton Moss defendants, the judge accused Greater Manchester Police of exceeding its powers by intervening on IGas' behalf during a civil trespass and of `acting as civil enforcement officers' for the company."
Netpol concludes… "Forcing campaigners to take on not only the shale gas and oil companies and their multinational partners but the full resources of the state is unacceptable in a democratic society."
* See also related Salford Star articles...
* Truth of Barton Moss Policing Complaints Revealed - click here
* Trade unions slate GMP and Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd over Barton Moss anti-fracking policing - click here