Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Protestors sued by energy company

The Guardian newspaper and channel 4 news have reported that the French energy company EDF is attempting to sue a group of climate change protestors for £5m after a peaceful occupation of a power station in Nottinghamshire last October. It is clearly concerning for the individuals involved who presumably don't have that kind of money and face possible bankruptcy, but this also has worrying implications for the right to protest. If  the case is successful, it would mean that companies involved in controversial activities could attempt to silence protests against them by threatening ruinous civil action. It also seems that there is evidence of possible collusion between the local Police force (Nottinghamshire Police) and EDF, with protestors claiming that the Police have been passing on information about them to the company which has then appeared in papers drawn up by EDF, and even serving court papers on their behalf in police stations!

Putting to one side the dubious legality of such practices, actions like these can only increase distrust between protest groups and the Police. I looked in a previous entry at why the tactic of using Police Liason Officers (who are supposed to encourage greater dialogue and trust between Police and protestors) has been controversial in Brighton because there have been similar allegations of collusion between Brighton police and a local factory accused of making equipment for military purposes. If the Police are going to be credible in their claims that they are neutral in sometimes contentious protests, then the allegations made against Nottinghamshire police can only damage such claims and further undermine protestors' trust in them.

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