The sworn affidavits, which mostly come from security guards working for contractor Shercurity, detail incidents which occurred after the forced eviction of squatters from the house which now forms part of the security compound at Oxfordshire beauty spot Radley Lakes.
The site was purchased by npower several years ago for the dumping of ash from a nearby power station, and is home to otters and kingfishers. Local residents have applied for town green status, and are angry that npower is continuing to dump ash and chop down trees at the site pending the outcome of this application.
While not all of the statements were made anonymously, the terms of the injunction mean EPUK cannot publish the names of those witnesses who gave their name on their evidence to the court.
The witnesses themselves did not appear in court, and so were not cross examined about their testimony. However, all witnesses have sworn that their statements are truthful and accurate.
Speculation on possible future tactics
The evidence was presented in court by npower to support its application for an interim injunction, which will now run until April 17th. EPUK understands that the National Union of Journalists is considering objecting to the injunction at this hearing.
The crucial elements of the statements, upon which the injunction appears to be granted, deal not with harassment that has already happened, but upon speculation upon the harassment that could possibily happen in the future. For example, the security guards appear not to be disconcerted by the actual photography itself, but that photographs of them could be placed on a website.
Equally, other the part of the injunction which prohibits the carrying of hammers, nails and D-locks, appears to be based on the statement of a Chief Superintendent which discusses in more general terms tactics which have been employed by protesters at other demonstrations.
The most serious incident alleges that a camper van driven by a known protester struck a security guard on the leg, although the statement goes on to add that there was no bruising on the leg the following day. Another affidavit by another security guard details how the alleged driver deny that the incident occurred.
Other incidents listed in the affidavit allege that Shercurity staff were photographed variously on mobile phones, disposable cameras, and what are described as “professional SLR cameras”.
The statements allege that security guards and contractors have been photographed by protesters, and that on two occasions, it it alleged that a female protester told security staff that their photographs would appear on a website.
“Threats to identify guards on websites”
An article published yesterday on the Amateur Photographer website quoted a npower spokesperson as stating that photographs of car registration plates had already been published on several websites, and this publication had led to the identification of npower workers and contractors.
When EPUK contacted npower to confirm this, we were told that the allegation was not true and had been published due to a “misunderstanding”. The relevant article has now been changed to state that no such publication has occurred.
On Wednesday, Npower told EPUK that it was not aware of any photographs or videos currently displayed on websites which identified its employees or contractors.
For many of the incidents related, there appear to have been no laws broken. One incident described how one of the protesters refused to move his tent from the side of the road to let past a lorry delivering equipment to the compound. When the police arrived, they confirmed that the protester was breaking no law and was entitled both to be there, and to refuse to move.
Many of the alleged incidents relate to actions by the protester referred to as “B1”, who is believed to be Anthony “The Ant” Bailey. Bailey sustained multiple fractures of the arm while in custody after being arrested on the site earlier this week. The police have stated that the injuries were self-inflicted.
Protester B1 is alleged to have kept a log of vehicles entering and leaving the compound, and to have photographed car registration plates with a camera phone.
We have edited down the statements, and only included a sample of extracts which relate to either photography or alleged threats against security guards.
“Press restriction necessary for worker safety”
By granting an injunction that imposes an outright ban on photography of Npower personnel and contractors, the court appear to have accepted that the restriction of press photography is necessary for the protection of npower workers. However, none of the incidents described in the witness statements appear to have any relevance or applicability to press photography.
The elastic wording of the injunction means that anyone who has been made aware of it automatically becomes injuncted. Whether by design or by accident, it is a device designed, delivered and employed to virally obstruct and restrict press coverage.
Whatever npower’s motives in seeking the injunction, they have now created a blanket interference with legitimate press interest on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.
At the same time, one protester told EPUK: “We all feel our civil
liberties have been infringed by being photographed and filmed by men in balaclavas.”
A more reasonable injunction would merely prohibit publication of photos that might lead to identification, but that isn’t what NPower have sought nor obtained, and nor would such an injunction be necessary. Privacy in sensitive situations is hardly a new situation for the news and picture desks, who are quite accustomed to robustly protecting anonymity of sources or subjects where necessary.
The allegations made in the witness statements clearly show that npower understand that there are just a small handful of individuals against whom the indictment need be directed.
In seeking a more draconian ban, npower has laid itself open to accusations that it has a darker motive in seeking to prohibit
scrutiny of its controversial activities at the site, which are clearly damaging its public image. The irony remains that its decision has attracted criticism, rather than deflecting it.
The witness statements
“Witness A” – Head of security team, former soldier
Witness A alleges that he and a colleague were on a “security patrol” walking behind a group of seven people, several of whom he recognised as those who had been evicted from a squat on the site.
“[Evictee E1] brought a large professional SLR camera to her eye. She used it to take photographs of my face…and of my colleague [witness B]”
“Another evictee, B3…laughed and said they were going to publish these pictures on the internet and in the papers. [He] then said they were going to find out where we lived because we had been too violent [during the eviction]
“This incident made me feel threatened, not just for me but for my family as well”
Witness B, security guard, former soldier
B confirmed the statement made by witness A, and said it made him “distressed and worried”
He also alleged that he overheard two telephone conversations made by the squatter known as B1 on different days:
“In the [first] conversation he was describing how he had been logging vehicles and people coming out of the site…[and] that it would be useful to get a video camera [down here] to record the people coming in and out”
Four days later, he overhead the second call: “He stated that they were not going to leave peaceably, and were going to set booby traps such as glass and razor blades set in concrete”. This made witness B “afraid”.
Witness C, security guard, former member of the RAF
“I saw the squatter B1 taking photographs of vehicle registration plates with a mobile phone”.
On a separate occasion, witness C alleged that he overheard the same squatter being interviewed by a journalist believed to be from the Indymedia website. Witness C said that he overhead the protester say “he was now prepared to rip [the security guards’] hearts out” and that he was willing to get the Animal Liberation Front involved”
Witness D, security guard, former soldier
During a “perimeter check”, he and two colleagues were photographed by “an unknown female” and “an unknown male” using “professional SLR cameras” from a car. When a colleague approached the car, he was told the photographs were being taken “as a tit-for-tat since we were photographing them”.
Witness E, security guard, works in close protection
While on patrol with a colleague [witness G] shortly after midnight, witness E alleged that a white camper van came down a bridleway and “hit me on the thigh, and spun me round”. While he reports that he was “in pain”, he continued to walk and found the van had turned around and was now “two or three feet” behind them. “The driver revved hie engine several times…he told us to move out of the way…We both moved out of the way immediately”
“He appeared from round the front of the van and took a photograph with a disposable camera”
There was no bruising on the leg the next day, but it “had a dead feeling”.
Later the next day, he observed two protesters “engaging in a training exercise…striking each others [Escrima] sticks. This display was quite threatening”
Witness F, contract project manager
“As I [left the site], I noticed [ a protester] lean over, bend down and reach into his rucksack…he pulled a camera out of the bag…he attempted to take the camera out of the case”.
While it would appear no photograph was taken, witness F said he was “intimidated” by the action.
Witness G, security guard, former member of the armed forces
Witness G’s statement confirmed the statement of witness E
Witness H, security guard, former soldier
This witness described an encounter with a protester who may have been the alleged driver involved in the incident given in the statements of Witnesses E and G. The protester was allegedly trespassing. Witness H describes how the protester denied hitting the security guard with the van, and threatened he would “go to the environmental agency, and the press” if ejected off the site.
Witness I, head of site security
Witness I, a former soldier, gave the most comprehensive list of alleged incidents.
“...an evicted squatter arrived and began taking close up photos of someone’s face and registration plate… Throughout the rest of the day, around eight individuals entering or leaving the site has their faces and registration plates photographed by various people”
“...it was reported that B1 was giving details of people coming and going from the [site compound] including details of number plates over his mobile phone…”
“...At the time one of the patrols left the site to go on a patrol, [protester] E1…used her camera with flash to take pictures of the security staff member faces…”
“...I witnessed [a protester] leaning over the gate with a long lens camera taking photographs of the contractors and security staff…One of the contractors left the site and the unknown male took pictures through his windscreen as he was driving away from the site”
“...An unknown male [apparently the same as the one above] was walking with two dogs holding a large SLR camera. On seeing them, he started to take pictures of the contractors and security team. The security team filmed him taking pictures of them”
Three unknown youths drove up in a Renault Clio. One youth “threw a stone at me and it hit the wall where I was standing…[this] disturbed and scared me greatly”
On a separate occassion, Witness I reported that during a security patrol, “on the bridle path…one female and one male started to take pictures of us with large zoom lens cameras…One of my colleagues asked the female why she was taking photographs, and her reply was…she has a website and she is going to put the pictures on it. She also said she is a professional photographer.”
Former Chief Superintendent X
This former policeman of 30 years experience, named in his affidavit, but who we cannot name due to the injunction, was responsible for policing during a significant environmental protest in the 1990’s. His statement discusses tactics of campaigners then, and speculates how they might be applied to the current npower project. His recommendations include: “The prohibition of photographing protected persons or their vehicles is important”
Witness Y, security guard
This witness, named in the affidavit, but who we cannot identify due to the injunction, reports hearing protester B1 say that the security guards were “the enemy”. He reports that he was “only slightly worried” at this.
Witness Z, manager of adjacent business
Witness Z is the only witness not directly connected with npower or its contractors. He is the general manager of a business adjacent to the site compound. He reports that he understands from others that the protesters camp is “causing problems”, and that he understands “these problems include photos and registration plates being taken of people entering and leaving the site”.
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