Login Register

Chester court hears anti-fracking councillor called police 'shameful'

Upton councillor, on trial with other activists, was filmed on day anti-fracking camp was evicted 

Anti-fracking protesters with one of the defendants, the suited Cllr Matt Bryan, outside Chester Magistrates Court before the trial got under way.

Police video has been played in court showing two confrontations between officers and an anti-fracking councillor who climbed on to a cherry picker during an operation to clear activists from a Chester protest camp.

Labour councillor Matt Bryan, who represents Upton on Cheshire West and Chester Council, is among eight accused on trial at Chester magistrates.

All have pleaded not guilty to charges resulting from the enforcement of a High Court writ on January 12 to evict activists from a field off Duttons Lane, Upton, which had been earmarked as a test drill site for potential coal-bed methane extraction.

The operation involved bailiffs supported by about 200 police officers.

Cllr Bryan, 29, of Cambrian Avenue, Vicars Cross , denies a charge of obstructing/resisting a constable in the execution of their duty.

In the first video, Cllr Bryan is outside the main entrance to the camp, surrounded by police, when he tells Inspector Ian Gallagher of his unhappiness that Duttons Lane has been closed to the public under emergency powers contrary to an agreement discussed in planning meetings he had attended as ward councillor.

Cllr Bryan said: “You wonder why people have no trust in the police. It’s shameful, shameful.”

In the video, Cllr Bryan is then shown being escorted off site by police officers.

Inspector Gallagher of Cheshire Police , giving evidence in court, said Cllr Bryan had been made aware prior to the eviction that closing the road was always an option. He had not set out to close the road beforehand but had decided on health and safety grounds to make the closure order on the day.

The next sequence of footage shows Cllr Bryan sitting on top of the retracted arm of a cherry picker aboard a stationary low loader intended to be used in removing protesters from trees and tall structures on site.

Cllr Bryan tells police of his concerns that such a heavy vehicle is heading to the site because activists were ‘locked on’ in underground tunnels. He tells officers he has ‘a civic duty’ to protect the public.

The officer insists he will pass this information on to the inspector in charge of the main site at which point Cllr Bryan indicates he will come down.

Anti-fracking activists set up a gazebo near Chester magistrates, facing the Grosvenor roundabout, to support defendants on trial, including the two pictured on left, Trky Cairns and Upton Cllr Matt Bryan.

But there was confusion in court as to whether Cllr Bryan was told he would or wouldn’t be arrested if he got down.

He asks an officer below: “Am I going to be arrested?” The response appears to be ‘If you come down now and go...’, at which point Inspector Owen Llewelyn, of North Wales Police , who gave evidence in court, insisted he interrupted to say: ‘Yes, you are.”

But District Judge Michael Abelson, presiding, said: “It sounds like ‘If you come down now and go, I will let you go’.”

Other defendants are: John Thomas Hall, 50, of George Street, Chester, charged with resisting/obstructing a constable; Lanner Davis, 24, of no fixed abode, charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer; Trky Edward Cairns, 41, of Borras Community Camp, Borras, Wrexham, charged with failing to comply with a section 35 direction excluding a person from an area.

Also on trial are: Jamie Douglas Watson, 33, of Belmont Avenue, Ayr, charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer; Louise Hammond, 52, of Cedar Avenue, Scunthorpe, charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer and Richard Burcumshaw, 65, of Oxford Grove, Bolton, charged with assaulting a constable in the execution of his/her duty and Simon John Stafford-Smith, 38, of no fixed abode, charged with failing to comply with a section 35 direction excluding a person from an area during an incident alleged to have taken place two days after the camp eviction on January 14.

The case of Amelia Bish, 28, of Horse Hill Protest Camp, Hookwood, Surrey, charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer, will be heard at a later date as she is ill and has provided the court with a sick note.

The case continues.



David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
Contact Us
Full contact details