Protester complains of police ‘assault’

A former naval officer, paralysed from the waist down, sustained leg injuries during anti-fracking protests in Lancashire

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A former naval officer has described being reduced to tears in pain following what he described as “assault” by a police officer during a demonstration at the Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire.

Nick Sheldrick, 36, of South Shore in Blackpool, is paralysed from the waist down following an injury he incurred in 2012 while working for the Merchant Navy, and says injuries sustained to his leg on Monday (10 April) left him with severe nerve pain.

Sheldrick told Big Issue North he was sitting in front of the gates to the Cuadrilla shale gas exploration site when a police officer told him to move so a lorry could leave the site.

“A police officer came up behind me, put his hand over my shoulder, leaned over the top of me and said: ‘You have to move and I don’t want to hurt you.’”

Sheldrick asked the officer where he should move to and the officer pointed him towards the opposite side of the gates.

Nick Sheldrick became concerned about fracking near his home after researching the impact it’s had elsewhere

“I turned my wheelchair to go that way and he put his hand on the back of the wheelchair and started to push me. I stopped the wheels and said to him ‘You don’t have to push me because when you’re doing that I’m not in control of the chair and I don’t feel safe’ and then I told him I was going to move to the other side of the road.”

Sheldrick said the policeman then put his foot in front of the wheel to prevent him continuing. Sheldrick unintentionally ran over his foot.

“As soon as I ran over his foot he just snarled at me and brought his knee down into my thigh with as much force as he could and kept me pinned there for a couple of seconds until I screamed out,” he said. “As soon as I screamed out he let me go.”

Sheldrick has become a regular visitor to anti-fracking protests at Preston New Road, where contractor AE Yates is preparing a farmer’s field for gas extraction expected in the summer.

“I knew fracking was around – I’ve known for years – but I’ve never really looked into it,” he said. “I’ve been a bit ignorant to it really, but a couple of months ago I watched a video – Voices From the Gasfields – and I thought, I need to do a bit more research into this. I looked at both sides and the more I looked I saw fracking sites that have been devastated. That’s when I made the conscious decision that I needed to go down there and try and add to the numbers.”

Sheldrick said he sits at the site holding a placard and does not try to obstruct lorries entering or leaving.

“I always move, I always comply, because I don’t want to get hurt,” he said. “I will sit in front of the gates and usually the security guys will say they’re bringing a truck out and I ask where I should go. They tell me and I’ll move but this time there was no instruction – the first I got was from the officer.”

Sheldrick’s account is one of a series claiming Lancashire Constabulary is using increasingly forceful techniques against protesters. In March Big Issue North spoke to a local councillor who had been injured in a kettling incident.

Dr Joanna Gilmore, a legal academic at York University is researching fracking protests with police monitoring body Netpol. Gilmore produced the report Keep Moving, detailing Greater Manchester Police conduct at the 2013-14 protests at Barton Moss.

She told Big Issue North: “There is a remarkable consistency across the country in how fracking protests are policed and that stems from a centralised policy formulated by the College of Policing. That means there haven’t been significant differences in how policing of protests has happened across the country. The tactics have been quite similar.

“One thing which has been very, very clear is a massively disproportionate policing response to what in the majority of cases – possibly all – have been peaceful protests characterised by violent policing but not violent protesting.”

On 13 April Lancashire Constabulary confirmed there had been a total of 86 arrests of 53 individuals at the Preston New Road site – 77 of which have led to charges. Police would not confirm what the charges were.

Following the incident on 10 April Sheldrick said the officer involved did not acknowledge his claim that he had been assaulted and walked away, but a police liaison officer approached him soon after.

“The PLO came across and I told him what had happened. He said to give him five minutes to see if he could find out more information. He came back saying he’d reviewed footage from police evidence gatherers and he couldn’t understand what the officer was doing when it was clear I was trying to get away.”

The incident occurred when a number of regular protesters were absent from the site, hearing the results of their High Court bid in Manchester. Two separate legal challenges, from campaign group Preston New Road Action Group and Gayzer Frackman, aimed to halt the activities of Cuadrilla were lost. Justice Dove said neither case challenging Cuadrilla’s planning permission had been “made out in substance”.

Sheldrick left following the incident. “I was in shock because I’ve never experienced anything like it,” he said. “I’ve always been a good lad. I’ve never been in trouble with police. I’ve never had a bad experience with police and I’ve always supported them.

“I thought I was going down there, going to make a peaceful protest, going to hold a sign up and that would be it. I never expected to get hurt by an officer so I was shocked and it nearly, nearly broke my resolve.”

Sheldrick has since returned to protest but said he suffered pain afterwards. “I managed to sleep last night so I’m ready to go again now. Monday night I hardly slept at all. Tuesday I had to drive so I couldn’t take any painkillers that day so I had a rough night.

“With the trauma that the officer gave, my leg started going into spasms. I started getting nerve pains because the signals that are coming down my spine are all mixed anyway and that happening was just confusing them even more. That’s where the pain starts.”

Sheldrick has made an official complaint to Lancashire Constabulary and has sought advice from a solicitor. He said: “I don’t want compensation. I just want him to answer to why he felt the need to use that much force.”

A Lancashire Constabulary spokesperson said they were unable to comment on an ongoing complaint but would look into the circumstances and take “appropriate action”.

More of our coverage of fracking can be found at:

bigissuenorth.com/news/2017/04/local-force-pays-police-fracking/

bigissuenorth.com/news/2017/03/supply-in-demand/

bigissuenorth.com/news/2017/03/row-fracking-protest-policing-bill/

bigissuenorth.com/news/2017/03/tidal-wave-force-fracking/

Interact: Responses to Protester complains of police ‘assault’

  • Kieran
    13 Apr 2017 23:53
    Here is an interview i did with Nick while livestreaming a protester (Scotty) who had climbed on top of a lorry heading for the cuadrilla site, two days after Nicks assault. Despite still being in agony he had come down to support Scotty who had climbed up the afternoon before and had been up there all night. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10158579855695158&id=663510157
  • Protester complains of police ‘assault’ - Roseacre Awareness Group
    13 Apr 2017 18:47
    […] READ REPORT […]

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