Bailiffs accused of ‘inhumane’ eviction of anti-fracking activists

BAILIFFS were accused of carrying out the “inhumane” eviction of an anti-fracking protest camp in Lancashire on Tuesday. Activists at New Hope camp in Preston New Road claimed they were “dragged from their beds half-naked” on the coldest night of the year. The camp’s residents said they were given “no warning” before the eviction at 6am by employees of private bailiff company Able Enforcements, the Lancashire Constabulary and local demolition firm Pete Marquis.

“I woke up to the sound of bailiffs, dogs and shouting,” anti-fracking activist Ellie Santos told the Morning Star.

“I saw my friend being dragged out of her bed half-naked strapped to a body-board. We were told to get out immediately.”

Ms Santos had been living in the camp near Blackpool in protest since it was built on private land in March 2017.

The activist said she was given just a few minutes to grab her possessions by the bailiffs, who seemed to be “enjoying themselves” as they evicted her and New Hope’s four other residents.

“They were taking selfies, making faces and laughing,” Ms Santos alleged.

Bristol-based firm Able Investigations, an enforcement agency, stated that the eviction was carried out without the need for a court order under common-law rights to remove “trespassers” from private land. But residents said they had previously been given permission to camp on the land by its owner and were never informed otherwise.

About 49 Lancashire Constabulary officers, who were not permitted on the site and stood outside, were also criticised by activists and local anti-fracking campaigners. “The treatment is what we’ve come to expect,” activist Fargo McCann said. “We’ve seen time and time again that the police are biased towards the shale gas industry. “They never did their duty to facilitate peaceful protest — they’ve just removed it.”

Frack Free Lancashire campaigner Claire Stephenson told the Star that protesters had faced years of “harassment” from police officers while trying to rid the region of fracking.

“The police have been appalling,” she said. “Yesterday I had to turn my back on them because they were laughing at protesters and sniggering — there’s no professionalism left.”

Steve Wood from Able Investigations disputed activists’ claims that unreasonable force was used or that bailiffs took selfies during the incident. “As far as we are concerned each officer conducted themselves in a professional manner under unpleasant conditions,” he told the Star in an email.

Ms Stephenson said that the Lancashire community would continue to stand with the activists of New Hope. “We will stand together with our friends, who have purposely been made homeless following this inhumane eviction process and will work together as a community to assist however we can.”

Lancashire Constabulary stressed that the eviction was Able Investigations’ operation and there was no collaboration with police.