Seven more people arrested during the anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss had their charges dropped on Friday raising concerns that the police have been arresting people attending the demonstrations on charges that they know are bogus or which they have no intention of prosecuting.
Amongst those having charges dropped on Friday was Vanda Gillett whose violent arrest on 15 February was widely covered in the press. A fifteen year old girl who was arrested after going to Barton Moss to research a school project had her charges dropped two weeks ago.
Those arrested had restrictive bail conditions which often prevented them attending further demonstrations.
So far more than 35 Protectors have been found not guilty or had charges dropped, whilst only a handful have been found guilty, mostly for obstructing the police.
Martin Porter of Frack Free Greater Manchester said “It is increasingly looking like the policing operation was about order and not law. For example, Greater Manchester Police continued to arrest Protectors on the charge of Obstructing the Public Highway for nearly three months after they were told in open court that Barton Moss Lane was a private road. Protectors arrested on this charge had no right to legal aid and were only able to get a defense when their solicitors agreed to work for them pro bono. None have been found guilty.
“The usual tactic appear to have been to arrest someone on the Moss, impose bail conditions that prevent further involvement in peaceful protest, and then several months later drop the charges on the eve of court. This harrassment of peaceful – and lawful – protest is a disgrace.”
The issue of how Greater Manchester police handled the demonstrations at Barton Moss is being looked into by an Independent Panel on Demonstartions and Protests which hopes o present a report to Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd this month.
Most of the those arrested are represented by Simon Pook of Robert Lizar solicitors.