Campaigners who were wrongfully detained while protesting against tree felling in Sheffield have been given a £24,300 payout by South Yorkshire police. The seven protesters were arrested between November 2016 and February 2017 and detained for up to nine hours under an obscure trade union law that was incorrectly used, the police watchdog found last…
Campaigners who were wrongfully detained while protesting against tree felling inSheffieldhave been given a £24,300 payout by South Yorkshire police.
The seven protesters were arrested between November 2016 and February 2017 and detained for up to nine hours under an obscure trade union law that was incorrectly used, the police watchdog found last year.
Protesters have accepted the payment, which came in an out-of-court settlement, but say they would rather have been given an apology.
“This is about the right to peacefully protest. The [police] are very good at using taxpayers’ money to get out of sticky situations instead of getting it right the first place. We just want an apology and an explanation,” said Dr Simon Crump, one of the protesters who was arrested in 2016.
The protesters are now pushing for an independent inquiry into the arrests, which they believe were an intimidation tactic to stop them from protesting.
Their arrest and detention were deemed inappropriate following an investigation by theIndependent Office for Police Conduct(IOPC). The protesters were arrested “for the prevention of harm and injury” under an obscure clause of theTrade Union and Labour Relations Act.
In a statement, South Yorkshire police said: “The upheld appeals were not based on an error in law and rightly, no officers were found to have a case to answer for misconduct … No formal apology was requested as part of the civil claim.”
The arrests are the result of a row between protesters and Sheffield city council over a controversial tree-felling programme during which the counciltookout an injunctionto prevent activists from taking direct action.
The programme sought to cut down thousands of trees to replace them with saplings. Sheffield City Council originally claimed only 5,000 trees were earmarked for removal, but secret documents later revealed it could be as many as 17,500 – half the city’s trees.
The tree-felling waswas halted last yearafter dozens of people were arrested and the environment secretary, Michael Gove, called the felling programme “bonkers”.
The council said that its outsourcing company, Amey, hired through a £2.2bn private finance initiative (PFI) contract, only felled dying, dead, or dangerous trees. But protesters accused the council of cutting down healthy trees because they were more costly and difficult to maintain than young saplings.
Crump said that his detention in 2016 left him feeling frightened and vulnerable, but vowed not to be put off from protesting in the future. “This is environmental vandalism and we need to stand up to it,” he said. “We won’t be put off by scare tactics and intimidation.”