Tuesday, March 20, 2007

You risk five years in prison if you read this

From this:

By Alex Thomson
Once upon a time there was a power station. And a lake. And a village next to the lake.

One day, the men in charge of the power station decided they had to do something with all the ash produced by burning so much coal at the power station.

"I know," they said, "let's fill in the lake with half a million tons of ash. OK - so it contains arsenic, but not that much. I'm sure the council in Oxford will say yes, that's ok."

"Yes - that's ok, " said the people in the planning department.

But the villagers were not at all happy. They protested.

And there, dear viewer, things would have stayed. Until Npower, which runs Didcot power station, suddenly did something extraordinary. They went along to the High Court one afternoon and got an injunction which is so wide-ranging it not only bans peaceful protest at or near the site of the lake, but it bans the media, or you, or anybody else, from filming the company as it goes about destroying the woods around the lake prior to filling it in.

The protesters and the media hadn't got a clue this was happening. They had no chance to put their side of the case. The only evidence the company produced in court was a bunch of largely anonymous witness statements from their security guards, who claimed they were harassed by protesters. Not one of these people was even in court, let alone cross-examined.

And so it is in Britain today. Under the Protection from Harassment Act of 1997 things which we claim to hold dear: freedom of peaceful protest, assembly, the press, have been disappeared at a stroke by High Court judges who only ever hear one side of the argument with 'evidence' which would be contested in any other kind of court sitting.

Corporations adore it since it stops any kind of meaningful protest. And politicians too seem quite happy to let all this simply continue behind closed doors.

At Radley Lake there has - Thames Valley Police tell us - not been a single arrest for any violent offience whatsoever. And yet a campaign of harassment was built on those witness statements and the protest and the ability of the media to cover it were shut down at a stroke.

So there you have it. Freedoms which people in this land fought long and hard for over centuries, are dispensed with at a stroke by uncontested evidence in a court.

Make no mistake. It's coming to a protest near you, unless somebody, somewhere, somehow gets up and decides that the Protection from Harassment Act needs rethinking from top to bottom.

You have been warned.

Oh! And you have also been injuncted, because as soon as you know about this injunction you are covered by it. Film or take pictures of what's happening to Radley Lake and you are looking at a maximimum of five years inside.

You have been warned (again).

To this:



ideafac said...

Thank you very much for having the courage to tackle the Radley Lakes issue and for treating it with the seriousness it deserves. My only regret about your otherwise excellent report was the fact that you swallowed RWE nPower's little spin-story about stopping trashing the lake because of a coot nest. They had already demonstrated that they had no qualms about trashing several bird nests. The work was stopped because they had contravened their planning permission.

Lakesaver said...

Thank you Channel 4 for taking the steps to publicise this injunction which none of the other channels would countenance. When I contacted the BBC and asked if they could feature the destruction of Thrupp Lake they said they couldn't because of the injunction! Central TV said at first that they were expressly forbidden from showing even library footage of Save Radley Lakes Campaign, such was the fear of the Media Bosses of this injunction. They have covered some things since then but not the destruction of the Lake prior to the Town Green Applicaton. The fact that people are prevented from protesting by some lawyers and some evidence which has never been challenged in open court is extremely concerning and should concern anyone who values their freedom of expression. Save Radley Lakes Campaigners have never threatened violence to anyone. We have tried to use the legal processes open and available to us. NPower, on the other hand, flout the rules and ride roughshod over the public, thinking that they are immune from prosecution. Having cut down the trees without a forestry licence, having used the residential property as a Contractors' Yard and having left items of equipment on the Byway, they were eventually forced to stop work until they have gained their approvals. In typical nPower style, they have to put a "spin" on their stopping work - hence Mr and Mrs Coot's desres which just fitted the bill nicely - no pun intended. Visit the Government Petition Website and register your vote - don't forget to open the email they send you and click on the link contained within to register your vote, and let's see what number of people agree with our Petition. http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/SaveRadleyLakes/ In the meantime, visit www.saveradleylakes.org.uk and www.radleyvillage.org.uk for more information on the campaign which has been waged for nearly two years against a Corporate Entity with only profit and the pockets of their shareholders in mind. It has had to deal with the indifference of The Environment Agency, the disregard of English Nature (now Natural England) the bias of BBOWT(the local Nature Trust sponsored by NPower) and those who populate the Department and Committee of Planning and Regulation at the County Council. These individuals were frightened to say "No to NPower" because it would mean a Court Case which they didn't want to have to fight. And the total contempt of the Government in their dismissal of the planning application as a local issue. Where is democracy when our elected representatives are so led by the unelected as to pass a resolution at the Planning Meeting based on a report which was conceived in ignorance and delivered in error.

lflexman, npower said...

Can I point a couple things out regarding this article? Firstly the ash is not toxic it is a non-hazardous waste. If it were we would not have permission for this work, neither would it be likely that woodland, meadowland and accompanying flora and fauna would be flourishing on the old ash sites at Radley that have been restored (this work has been going on there for 20 years). The ash contains no more arsenic pound-for-pound than the surrounding topsoil, or for that matter the human body. Secondly the injunction in question does not ban protest at or near the lake. There have been two perfectly lawful protests since it was issued, making use of a public right of way which is literally metres from the edge of the lake. Also your blog readers are not covered by the injunction simply by hearing of it. The purpose of the injunction was to prevent harassment and trespass, not protest, with which we have no problem. You fail to point out that there have been arrests for aggravated trespass at the site and a two week illegal occupation of a house on the site. All we are trying to do here is get on with our lawful work and put the safety of our people first. The parts of the injunction related to filming at the site were designed to address threats to publish the faces of our staff on websites and find out where they live, along with photography and logging of licence plates of our staff cars. As Channel 4 has proved, it is still perfectly possible for the media to run a TV story on this subject. Oh and finally the woods you filmed are still there and will remain there. The trees that have been taken down will be replaced planting of many more as part of the restoration - 1,200 to be precise, and that is just the start. The legacy of our work will be a permanent nature reserve with access to the public. Leon Flexman, npower

neoconhitman said...

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I will mention it on my blog and urge others to do the same. NPower should not be allowed to cover this up. The unethical practices of big business should not be protected by the law at the expense of our basic democratic rights. If I so much as threw a sweet wrapper out my car window the law would be all over me. However, if I had a corporation and a few politicians in my pocket I could dump as much waste into someone elses back yard as I liked. If lflexman believes the waste is so safe then may I suggest he volunteers his own garden for it. If NPower's actions are so honourable then I have to wonder why they are they going to so much trouble to bury this story? Pun intended.

Lakesaver said...

The ash is not toxic? According to Didcot Power Station's own records, there are elements like Arsenic, Boron, Cadmium, Vanadium, Chromium, to name but a few. The fact that they put the ash into water to deliver it to Radley means it washes some of the soluble elements out and this cocktail is then discharged into the River Thames where it is diluted with the main river flow. Unfortunately the Environment Agency forgot to monitor the Outflow for 3 years - someone got a little tap on the wrist for that omission - and it was discovered from NPower's own Environmental Returns to the environment Agency that they had breached their discharge limits on several occasions, particularly with Chromium which an exceptionally dangerous element. The County Medical Officer for Health is reliant upon the Environment Agency, and the Environment Agency don't follow up the reports which are delivered to them, or make regular inspections like they are required to do. Instead, they are like the Police, they like soft targets - prosecuting small traders (like someone I know whose central heating oil tank leaked over a weekend - the EA were on the doorstep on Monday morning threatening hellfire and damnation) but in the case of NPower they turn a blind eye! But the truth is coming out and the people at the EA should start doing their job properly because the Lakes than the Environment Agency have been able to answer.

idmurray said...

I didn't see the programme. But unfortuantely the message is automatically diluted for me because of Channel 4's growing reputation for seemingly simply wanting to stir up controversy whatever the facts. The recent controversy over 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' is a case in point. Then there is the rather hysterical reaction from EPUK. Their blog briefly included a claim by the assumed author of their arrticle that the injunction banned all photography at the site. This was untrue and rather undermined the quality of research that must have gone into writing their report. The incorrect statement soon disappeared without comment or apology but not before causing those who had read it to wonder about the accuracy of the whole piece. I'm not taking sides- I don't know all the facts- but I can see that if protestors really were using photography as a threat to nPower contractors and employees then nPower may well have a legal duty to protect their people.

Lakesaver said...

Dear Idmurray - The NPower Guards filmed everyone who visited the area, taking their car numbers and deliberately being provocative as they filmed, trying to elicit a response - I know because I was the subject of their attentions. having someone swathed in a black face mask pointing a video camera at you is disconcerting to say the least. At no time did I threaten the Security Guards but in their evidence they say that I did. I am not an eco warrior but a local resident who wants to keep a beautiful wildlife reserve for future generations. There was no hysteria on the part of the EPUK. I know the photographer who was threatened with the injunction and when you read what that means, it means you can go to prison for doing what you believe to be your job in reporting events. This injunction was designed to stop filming of the destruction of Radley Lakes. As for the Great Climate Change Swindle, we have the Great NPOWER SWINDLE which reported that there was no where to put their ash and the power station would shut down if they didn't use Radley Lake. However, two years later, the power station is still generating, they haven't closed it down and they are still saying they haven't got any other alternative. So what have they been doing with the ash for the last two years when the told the County Council and no doubt the Government, that this was their only option. Channel 4 was the only programme brave enough to take on the Lawyers. Without controversy there is no discussion

asnapper2 said...

Note that the lawyers who are dishing out this injunction based on the 1997 Harassment act, Lawson Cruttenden are the same lawyers that helped draft the 1997 harassment act itself. Consequently they claim to be the leaders in the field. In fact Lawson Cruttenden himself has written a book on the subject see: http://www.lawson-cruttenden.co.uk/protection_harassment_act.html in which it states on the ad' that this book is useful if your clients are concerned with stalkers , young offenders, investigative reporters. He therefore sees investigative reporting as a criminal activity. Equally worrying is the fact that since this act operates in civil law these injunctions can be issued on evidence based on the law of probability of someting happening rather than that based on beyond reasonable doubt. In other words the judge ( justice Calvert Smith ex-director of public prosecutions) in the case of Radley lakes issued the injunction based on anecdotal and allegedly fabricated evidence because something 'might happen' as opposed to irrefutable clear evidence being provided. It also went through with out being allowed to be contested The definition of fascism is when the state, the judiciary and coporations work in unison, uncontested. What is happening at Radley lakes is a very worrying precedent and N Power and the judiciary have a lot to answer for.

idmurray said...

As I understand it the council have given permission for this to happen. Perhaps they should be the focus of attention. Lakesaver - where should the ash go? Is there an obvious alternative? I honestly don't know. Where would you put it? In somebody else's backyard? Accusing everybody who disagrees with you of being a fascist is just childish. Just possibly the style and methods of protest have been inappropriate and actually harmed the cause?

AlbanThurston said...

We are all grateful to asnapper2, for fingering chancey law firm Lawson Cruttenden as the pinstriped goons hired by nPower to do nPower's dirty work in suppressing the liberties of peaceful Radley Lakes protesters. Most corporate managements are absolute suckers for shiny new solutions proposed by gimcrack "advisors". So nPower are doubtless happy to be shelling out £1,000s per hour for Lawson Cruttenden's advice on suppression of protest. Perhaps nPower's spin person will explain precisely what forms of harrassment & intimidation nPower expects to receive from a local vicar, and from several peaceful residents, whom nPower names in their injunction. While he's at it, could Mr Flexman explain why it is right that nPower can name these individuals before a judge, without inviting those individuals to defend themselves in court from nPower's excessive, unexamined fears ?

asnapper2 said...

idmurray needs to do his/ her research a bit better before wading in. The ash can be turned into PFA cement and bricks. It's an effective and cheap building material, not to mention the lower carbon footprint. Also the landfill pit at sutton courtney is at undercapacity so this ash could go there if it were a question of the power station shutting down as N power have been saying, rather deceptively, for ages. And the claim of fascism is not one I use lightly. It is THE definition of fascism when the state, the judiciary and coporations work in unison, uncontested. If you can't handle a definition that is your problem. The heavy handed response to a tiny and non violent peaceful protest at Radley Lakes was complete overkill. The fact is that N Power raised the stakes, not the protesters.

Luther Blissett said...

Sign the petition: here

In the meantime, visit www.saveradleylakes.org.uk and www.radleyvillage.org.uk