Tree protesters to challenge South Yorkshire Police in court over arrests

Tree campaigners arrested while protesting in Sheffield plan to take South Yorkshire Police to court.

Wednesday, 22nd March 2017, 9:32 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:08 am
Tree protesters are led away from felling in Chippinghouse Road by police.

Fourteen people will contest the legality of their arrests, charges and time spent in detention and on bail as a result of their protests.

The campaigners were all held under Trade Union legislation after allegedly stopping Amey contractors from felling trees under the council's Streets Ahead programme.

Charges against all 14 were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service due to a lack of evidence and not being in the public interest.

Pensioners Jenny Hockey and Freda Bradshaw only found out the news minutes before they were due in court over their protests in Rustlings Road in November.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said earlier this month the police 'should not be drawn into' delivery of the Streets Ahead programme.

But the 14 people who were arrested believe his statement raises 'as many questions as it answers' as to why Trade Union law was used against them

Police talk to protesters in Chippinghouse Road.

Campaigners say they would have welcomed the opportunity to address the charges and defend their actions in court.

Calvin Payne, one of those arrested, said: "We are not going to accept fourteen arrests for something that does not appear to have been a crime. We look forward to holding all those responsible to account."

Dr Billings' statement in full:

“Tree replacement is a policy of Sheffield City Council and its implementation a matter between the council and its residents.

Protesters outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court.

“It is part of a larger programme to renew all Sheffield's roads and pavements, and manage its roadside trees in a way that ensures that future maintenance can be effectively undertaken.

“The policy had cross-party support at the time: everyone wanted the potholes filled in.

“The police should not be drawn into delivery of the policy, as they were when they knocked on doors in the early hours on Rustlings Road. This was a matter for the city council and its contractors, as I said at the time.

“Of course, the police are inevitably involved when a breach of the peace or criminal offence is threatened.

Police talk to protesters in Chippinghouse Road.

“I have discussed repeatedly with the Chief Constable and senior officers, the use of the trade union legislation.

"All now accept the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute. But more importantly, the police should not be put in a position where they risk eroding the community's trust and confidence in them and where they are repeatedly having to commit resources that would be better spent fighting crime.

"This week I held a joint meeting with the police and the council and the council assured me that they are happy to continue to meet the protest leaders."

Protesters outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court.