Campaigners arrested under Trade Union laws by the police whilst protesting against tree felling in Sheffield have secured an out of court settlement of more than £24,000 over their claim for wrongful arrest.
Howells Solicitors, who represented the campaigners, confirmed today that a total of £24,300 has been paid to Calvin Payne, Simon Crump, Jeremy Peace, Paul Brooke, Gemma Lock, Kate Billington and Margaret Mark.
Paul Brooke said: “What I find astonishing is that South Yorkshire Police have not made any form of apology for our wrongful arrests.
“This was a deliberate act to prevent legitimate protest and was a violation of our very basic rights”
The seven were arrested between November 2016 and February 2017 and were kept in custody for up to nine hours.
All were charged under section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act but proceedings were subsequently discontinued.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct upheld their complaints and found the arrests were ‘not appropriate’.
An out of court settlement has now been reached with South Yorkshire Police in respect of the civil claims for damages.
Part of the claim was a claim for breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 which recognises protesters’ right to peaceful protest.
Iftikhar Manzoor of Howells Solicitors specialist Civil Liberties department said of the settlement: “I am pleased that South Yorkshire Police agreed to this settlement.
“The right to peaceful protest is fundamental in a democratic society.
“The recognition that this right was breached was central to the concerns of all the protesters in pursuing their complaints and damages claims.
“The importance of this outcome is a hope that lessons will be learnt by the police to avoid such unnecessary arrests in the future which were
upsetting and stressful for my clients. ”
A spokesman for Howells said there are also ‘a number of outstanding claims still to be resolved’.
The settlement follows the long-running saga over the removal of thousands of street trees and their replacement with saplings as part of a £2.2 billion highways improvement scheme by Amey, on behalf of Sheffield City Council, which also extends to work on Sheffield’s roads, pavements and street lights.
Protesters have argued that many of the 5,500 trees felled since 2012 have been removed unnecessarily.
The council says it has removed around 2,000 healthy trees believed to have been damaging pavements and road surfaces.
The bitter dispute appeared to have come to an end in December last year, when SCC, Amey and campaigners reached a felling agreement, following months of talks.
But leaders of Sheffield Trees Action Groups (STAG) said last month that its members were not happy with the terms of the agreement, and believed it would still result in the felling of too many healthy trees.