Sheffield tree protesters win wrongful arrest payout

Image source, PA
Image caption,
There has been a long-running row in Sheffield over thousands of trees that have been cut down since 2012

Seven campaigners have been awarded £24,300 after the police watchdog ruled they were wrongfully arrested during tree-felling protests.

They were held under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act but charges against all seven were dropped.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found South Yorkshire Police had no grounds for arrest.

Paul Brooke, who was among those held, said the arrests were a "violation of our very basic rights".

Mr Brooke, Calvin Payne, Simon Crump, Jeremy Peace, Gemma Lock, Kate Billington and Margaret Mark were all arrested and charged between November 2016 and February 2017.

However, the criminal cases were discontinued following a Crown Prosecution Service review.

In August the IOPC said: "Though we found there was reasonable suspicion that an offence had been committed, the protesters were arrested for the prevention of harm and injury; there were no grounds for this as there was no risk of injury."

Following the ruling campaigners submitted claims for damages, arguing the force was in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The money was paid by South Yorkshire Police in an out of court settlement with the group.

Image source, Pixelwitch
Image caption,
Protesters have attempted to stop trees being cut down

Iftikhar Manzoor of Howells Solicitors, who acted for the protestors, said: "The recognition that this right was breached was central to the concerns of all the protestors 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."

Mr Brooke said despite reaching the settlement the force "have not made any form of apology".

The BBC has contacted South Yorkshire Police for a comment.

Thousands of street trees have been felled and replaced with saplings as part of Sheffield City Council's £2.2 billion highways improvement scheme being carried out by Amey.

However, protests erupted after campaigners argued many of those felled since 2012 had been removed unnecessarily.

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