Balcombe: MP On Trial Over Fracking Protest
A police officer told a court of the moment he arrested Britain's only Green MP during anti-fracking protests in West Sussex.
Pc Robert Staplehurst said he recognised Caroline Lucas among a group of protesters who had linked arms outside the main entrance of energy firm Cuadrilla's exploratory drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex, last August 19.
The Sussex Police officer told Brighton Magistrates' Court that he approached her, addressed her as "Caroline'' and told her that she was obstructing the highway.
Brighton-based Pc Staplehurst said: ``I approached Caroline Lucas, placed the palm of my left hand on her back and spoke in her right ear in order that she knew I was speaking to her.
"I addressed her as Caroline, she acknowledged I was there.
"I said words to the effect of, 'There is a Section 14 notice under the Public Order Act, you are obstructing the highway also and I require you to move'.
"And then I said, 'Are you going to move of your own accord?'''
Prosecutor Jonathan Edwards asked Pc Staplehurst for her reply.
The officer said: "The reply was 'no'.
"I went on to explain that if she failed to do as I required then she would be arrested. The answer was 'no'.''
Pc Staplehurst said he explained to the Brighton Pavilion MP that there was a designated protest area 50 metres north and that she would be arrested if she did not move.
The officer added: "At 15.25 hours I arrested Ms Lucas for offences of breaching a Section 14 notice and obstructing the highway.
"I cautioned her and told her that the necessity to arrest was that she was obstructing the highway.
"Ms Lucas was escorted to another waiting police vehicle and she was handed over so that she could be conveyed to the custody centre.''
A short section of footage was shown to the court showing Lucas circled while linking hands with fellow protesters.
In it, Pc Staplehurst is heard to say: "I require you to move. Are you going to move of your own accord?''
He went on: "Just bear in mind you will be arrested...is there anything that I can say that is going to make you move? In that case, Caroline, I'm arresting you.''
In another section of footage, Lucas and fellow protesters are seen singing "We shall not, we shall not be moved'' before officers grapple with a man sat next to her.
Lucas' lawyer Tom Wainwright questioned Pc Staplehurst over his account that he had explained to her where the designated protest area was.
The officer replied: "From my memory of the day I did explain where it was.''
Lucas, 53, from Brighton; Josef Dobraszczyk, 22, from Bristol; Ruth Jarman, 50, from Hook, Hampshire; Sheila Menon, 42, from north east London; and Ruth Potts, 39, from Totnes, Devon, all deny wilful obstruction of the highway and breaching Section 14 of the Public Order Act.
West Sussex Coroner Taken Decision Due To Final Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) Report Due Next Friday.
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