MP attacks 'SAS-style' tactics used by police against environmental protesters

A Nottinghamshire MP has criticised police for using "SAS-style" tactics during an operation to arrest more than 100 environmental activists before they had even begun protesting.

Eco-campaigners and civil liberty groups have questioned the circumstances surrounding the mass arrests, thought to be the largest single pre-emptive raid on a group of demonstrators in British history.

Police used more than 200 officers from five forces to arrest 114 men and women in Sneinton, Nottinghamshire, early on Monday morning because they were allegedly preparing to cause "prolonged disruption" to the nearby Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station.

Those arrested were found inside the privately owned Iona school, which was closed for the Easter break, and were charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass and criminal damage.

Nottinghamshire Police have defended the raid, saying they believed the protesters intended to engage in an unlawful demonstration that risked shutting down the power plant. Officers found bolt-cutters and locking equipment and suspect that the activists were planning to chain themselves to vital equipment inside the power plant. All those arrested were released on bail yesterday pending further inquiries.

Alan Simpson, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, has questioned the nature of the pre-emptive strike, saying it had serious repercussions for the right to free assembly and had utilised overly heavy-handed tactics. "I am absolutely baffled by the sheer scale of the police operation," he said. "It was very Orwellian. What we saw was over-the-top, smash-and-grab, SAS-style, pre-emptive policing that was massively disproportionate to what was happening on the ground. The scale of policing was what you would expect to be used for a terrorist event or the break-up of a major crime syndicate, not to stop an environmental protest."

Mr Simpson also questioned why it was necessary to smash two double-glazed doors at the Iona school, which has now had to put in new doors and flooring. The school's owners said they had no idea protesters were meeting there. No environmental group has yet claimed responsibility for the planned protest. It is believed groups associated with the Climate Camp network were involved.

Police tactics when dealing with protests have been placed under heavy scrutiny in the past two weeks following the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London. Mr Tomlinson died of a heart attack shortly after apparently being hit and pushed to the ground by a baton-wielding riot officer. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral