A prominent anti-fracking campaigner was detained under the Terrorism Act by Devon and Cornwall police at Exeter airport just before Christmas.
Ian Crane who presents the weekly web broadcast Fracking Nightmare, says he was detained for two hours under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 after his return from Amsterdam on December 20th.
Drill or Drop reports:
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The Network for Police Monitoring, Netpol, said the incident was further “alarming evidence” that opponents of fracking were being targeted as “domestic extremists”. It follows Netpol’s recent publication of a recording in which a counter-terrorism officer at a training session described some opposition to fracking as extremism.
According to Mr Crane, a former oil executive, he was detained by two police officers in plain clothes on 20th December 2015 after he went through passport control at Exeter, following a flight from Amsterdam. The Notice of Detention recorded that he was held at 10.20pm.
He said the police officers told him it was a random check.
“They wanted to know ‘Where have you been?’ ‘What are you doing?’”
“I said everything I did was in the public domain.”
Mr Crane gives talks to community groups about what he says are the risks of fracking. He produced the documentary Voices of the Gasfields about fracking in Australia and has filmed police activity at anti-fracking protests in the UK. Three days after his detention, lawyers for Rathlin Energy sought to make him bankrupt. More details
He also broadcasts on geopolitical issues and during the interview the officers asked him about his views on events in the Middle East.
“They asked questions about what I thought radicalises people.”
“They didn’t say anything about fracking until I did”.
“They said ‘It [fracking] is a concern but we’re alright down here [in Devon and Cornwall]’”.
“We have to take your phone”
Mr Crane said the officers told him they had to take his phone.
“I said this was an infringement against my fundamental human rights.”
“They said ‘We have to take your phone. If you don’t give it to us we will have to charge you under the Terrorism Act.’”
“I said I was allowing them against my better judgement.”
“I said I have this country’s best interests at heart. The legacy we are leaving future generations scares the crap out of me.”
Mr Crane said this was the first time he had had any connection with the security services.
He said he refused to sign the Notice of Detention. He said the interview lasted about an hour. The officers then spent another hour with his phone. He asked the officers to delete any material that had been collected from it.
DrillOrDrop asked Devon and Cornwall Police whether officers had complied with this request. We also asked the force to confirm the details of Mr Crane’s detention.
A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said the force had no comment to make. It would also not comment on our question about the authenticity of the Section 7 Notice of Detention, which contained two spelling mistakes and had no name or reference to the detaining authority.
Mr Crane talks about his experience on the January episode of Fracking Nightmare below
This is not the first time anti fracking activists have been treated as terrorists or violent extremists, as the Canary points out:
An audio recording obtained by Netpol of a Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent training (WRAP) – training which is now mandatory for most public sector workers – shows fracking opponents at Barton Moss being described as “violent extremists”. According to the officer giving the training, either protesters obey the letter of the law, or they are violent extremists. As Netpol point out, there is “no middle ground”, and the allegations made at this briefing, of assault against a worker, were based on unfounded accusations.
Police told teachers last year that anti-fracking protesters could be seen as potential extremists under the government’s new counter-terrorism strategy.
They were told that people campaigning against fracking in their local area could be regarded as having extreme views and warned that environmental activists and anti-capitalists could be deemed a threat, with the Green MP Caroline Lucas given as an example.