About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Public Protests & Trade Union Law?

On Wednesday 2nd November, as I was preparing for the usual monthly Full Council meeting, my little corner of Facebook lit up with a story I found hard to believe. It appeared that South Yorkshire Police were about to use Trade Union law to move on members of the public protesting about the felling of Street Trees.

The obvious wrongness of this, for me, was glaring. These were not 'flying pickets' or aggressive, intimidating thugs. They were mostly middle aged, middle class protesters hanging about under a tree. The Police attempted to move on the protesters by warning them they were in breach of s.241 of the Trade Union Act of 1992 and would be liable to arrest if they refused.

The wording of the Act is as follows;

s241 Trade Union Act Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. Section 241 – Intimidation or annoyance by violence or otherwise.
(1)A person commits an offence who, with a view to compelling another person to abstain from doing or to do any act which that person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully and without legal authority—
(a)uses violence to or intimidates that person or his spouse or civil partner or children, or injures his property,
(b)persistently follows that person about from place to place,
(c)hides any tools, clothes or other property owned or used by that person, or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof,
(d)watches or besets the house or other place where that person resides, works, carries on business or happens to be, or the approach to any such house or place, or
(e)follows that person with two or more other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street or road.

I have seen no evidence in the various videos and photographs of the events that suggest “Intimidation or annoyance by violence or otherwise” from any of the protesters, the Amey employed workforce in the immediate area seem to be enjoying a quiet cuppa. This law is also clearly aimed at restricting the actions of Trade Unionists and not restricting the right to peaceful protest by members of the Public.

In the end two protesters agreed to stick it out and were duly arrested by the Police. They were then held for seven hours before being charged (even though the police computer didn't appear to have a code for their offence) and summonsed to appear at the Magistrates Court in Sheffield on the 1st of December.


(Click on the above image which will take you to the video of the arrest on the STAG Facebook group or click here -

Having heard about the events of the morning, I asked a question at the Council Meeting; “Does Council agree with Trade Union Law being used by Police to prevent protest by and to arrest members of the public? Who provided the Police with the sheaf of papers and inspiration for this tactic, Amey, Council or some other?”

Julie Dore – Leader of the Council responded very adamantly to the question, saying that she did not agree with this law at all and did not agree (with it being used in this way).

Bryan Lodge – Cabinet Member for the Environment followed up by saying that, on receipt of the question from me, he had asked the question of Amey and of his Contract Management Team. Both denied having instigated this tactic and therefore the Police must have come up with this themselves.

Talking later to one of those arrested he commented that, before the Police came to talk to the protesters, they had been in conversation with Amey Supervisors for some time, this casts doubt on the answer from Bryan Lodge and warrants further questioning.

Coincidentally, today I was chatting with a friend who attended the Police & Crime Commissioner's
, Public Accountability Board meeting on Friday and brought the matter up with the new Chief Constable. In that conversation it became clear that the Chief Constable was unhappy at the use of this tactic as well, the fallout from that could be interesting.

The wider question of course is, who do the police work for? Is it the Public or the Corporations?

Then we should consider the potential for interference with Article 11 of the Human Rights Act which protects the right to protest and to freedom of association. According to Liberty, “The right to peaceful assembly cannot be interfered with merely because there is disagreement with the views of the protesters or because it is likely to be inconvenient and cause a nuisance ...” and “There is a positive obligation on the State to take reasonable steps to facilitate the right to freedom of assembly, and to protect participants in peaceful demonstrations from disruption by others. “ This includes protection from the Police, Army or the State itself.

Article 11 seemed to take precedence when it came to protests in Rotherham by the EDL, even though that was disrupting the lawful pursuit of their business for many of the towns shopkeepers. The EDL marches also included a significant threat to public order, something not present at the Marden Road incident.

A current South Yorkshire Police advertisement on their website asks the question “Whose pulling your strings?” That is a very good question.


  1. Really interesting piece. Thank you.

  2. Was always quoted by the police whilst arresting runway 2 protesters at Manchester Airport. This is a common tactic used by police for a long time.

  3. Why did the Police Inspector in charge of the operation to arrest these two men repeat almost verbatim a quote from Councillor Bryan Lodge which claimed the judge in a High Court case in March had endorsed the felling policy and say it was from South Yorkshire Police Legal Department?
    The judge said no such thing!

  4. Thanks for drawing the comparison with the EDL demo in Rotherham. It will be fascinating to see what happens at court on 1st Dec.