Now police face legal action over Sheffield tree-felling arrests

Police talk to protesters in Chippinghouse Road.
Police talk to protesters in Chippinghouse Road.
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CAMPAIGNERS who were arrested as they protested at tree-felling by Sheffield Council say they plan to take South Yorkshire Police to court.

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 learned of the decision only 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.

Tree protesters are led away from felling in Chippinghouse Road by police.

Tree protesters are led away from felling in Chippinghouse Road by police.

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

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 has said of the council’s policy: “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.

Protesters outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court.

Protesters outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court.

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

“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.”