A video has been released by anti-frackers showing bailiffs grappling with a young female activist who appears to have been dropped off the roof of an eight-feet high hut.
But the manner in which she was manhandled by an all-male team, wearing hard hats and body protection, has left some asking whether they acted outside the law although a police officer monitoring the incident felt it unnecessary to intervene and Cheshire Police has confirmed no complaints have been received.
At one point a bailiff can be seen grabbing the inner right thigh of the woman who was wearing leggings.
The two minute video, captioned ‘Bailiffs try to throw female protester from roof of Solidarity Tea Hut’, has been viewed more than 2,200 times on You Tube.
The Chronicle asked the High Court Enforcement Group, whose National Eviction Team carried out the eviction, for a comment but an unnamed spokesman said it was company policy not to talk to the media because of the nature of their work.
IGas spokeswoman Ann-marie Wilkinson, whose firm instructed HCE, said: "Whilst we respect the right to peaceful protest, the protesters were occupying the site illegally."
We also asked Cheshire Police for a comment after activists claimed bailiffs should be arrested for alleged assault. It is understood the woman activist herself has not been charged with any offence.
The force said the video had been viewed but replied that no complaints had been received and that every protester was checked by a paramedic and nobody was taken to hospital. Police confirmed its protest liaison officer was present as the incident unfolded but ‘no issues concerning the conduct of police officers were identified’.
Activist Dr Steven Peers, who filmed the incident from the top of a tower at the site entrance, said: "It's disgraceful. We have tons of footage of similar operations where harnesses are attached and people are lowered down carefully - to just grab somebody and manhandle them is a breach of health and safety and it's a clear assault."
At one point Dr Peers, who was eventually walked off site but was not arrested, feared his friend may tumble 'head first' to the the ground.
Johnny Linehan posted on the Frack Free Upton Facebook page: “This is a series of common assaults and there were hundreds of cops there who should have arrested them.”
Vanessa Vine agreed with Mr Linehan in his further statement that “they acted in a rough way to a person making a legitimate protest to defend her community and the whole world”.
But she urged against claiming that they tried to “throw” her off the roof and said: “What they did do - in forcibly grabbing, restraining then dropping her and having her caught - was utterly inexcusable.”
Jon O’Houston posted: “Having watched this several times, the only thing that can be said is that they treated the protector in the most dangerous and irresponsible manner, at 22 seconds into the film it clearly shows that they had pushed her to the point of falling without any kind of safety wear.”
Lydia Roberts posted one word: “Disgusting.”
The eviction was carried out by the National Eviction Team (NET), part of the High Court Enforcement (HCE) Group. The HCE website states that it has ‘been responsible for the safe removal of illegal trespassers from occupied land and buildings in England and Wales for nearly two decades’.
The extract adds: “We deploy highly skilled, responsible and accountable operatives led by the largest and most experienced team of authorised High Court Enforcement Officers in the country.
“We strive to be recognised as the safest and most secure provider of all types of evictions. We pride ourselves in putting the health and safety of all trespassers and multi agencies involved at the forefront of our operations. We base all our relationships on openness, honesty, integrity, ethics and choice.”
Cheshire Police spokeswoman Rachel Hayes said in a statement: “The video you refer to has been viewed by officers and no issues concerning the conduct of police officers were identified. The officer you refer to seen in the video observing the High Court enforcement officers' action, is a protest liaison officer who was called onto the site by the protesters at their request, to observe the proceedings.
“Each protester was seen by a paramedic and assessed and no one was taken to hospital. Cards were provided to the protesters which detailed how to make a complaint and we have not had any complaints relating to this incident. In addition, our evidence gathering teams and independent observers were also monitoring the proceedings.”
Road still closed
Police say an ongoing road closure of Duttons Lane was authorised on the grounds of public safety for protesters, emergency services and High Court Enforcement officers. The emergency order is a standard 21 day closure notice, but that ‘doesn’t mean it will be closed for 21 days’ and is under constant review. The local community is being updated face-to-face by PCSOs and via the Cheshire Police Alert messaging service.
Police say protesters continue to arrive and leave the site to lawfully protest in an allocated area and emergency services are still in place.
The spokeswoman added: “In addition, the HCE have commenced their activity to remove structures from the site. This has involved the use of a truck and digger sited on Duttons Lane to remove structures from the site. This may present a danger to any individuals on Duttons Lane.
“The High Court enforcement officers continue their work at the site to return the land to natural state and until this is completed the road will remain closed but at the earliest opportunity, which we believe will be in the near future, the road closure will be removed.”