Kent Police has been accused of an “abuse of power” after it planted plain-clothes officers in the audience of a fracking debate at Canterbury Christ Church University.
It emerged this week that a chief inspector requested that two officers monitor the meeting, which took place on November 19, following concerns over the attendance of a prominent Green Party activist.
The party is accusing the force of “political policing against the Greens”.
The public debate on fracking. Picture: Canterbury Christ Church University
Kent Police has already come under fire for demanding that the university hand over a list of all those who attended. It actions were branded “deplorable” and “outrageous”.
A Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request by the Green Party has revealed the force made a conscious decision to send two inspectors to the meeting.
A document labelled “Meeting Summary” states: “Ch/Insp [name redacted] requested that CI [name redacted] and DI [name redacted] register to attend the university debate.”
It says there will be “some high profile figures present, one being Mr Ian Driver, the Green Party Councillor for Thanet. Links have been made with local security”.
Anti-fracking campaigners Ian Driver and Julie Wassmer at the debate. Picture: Canterbury Christ Church University
Stuart Jeffery, the Green Party’s general election candidate for Canterbury and Whitstable, submitted the FOI request after it came to light that Kent Police had wanted the names of attendees to the November meeting.
Mr Jeffery is to ask the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate the planting of plainclothes officers at the meeting.
He said this week: “It is clear that Kent Police are continuing their campaign of political policing against the Greens.
“Planting plainclothes officers into the audience of a university debate… is frankly an abuse of power and a waste of resources…” – Stuart Jeffery
“Planting plainclothes officers into the audience of a university debate simply because it is on an issue of interest to the Greens is frankly an abuse of power and a waste of resources.
“Their request to ask the university to break the law by providing a list of attendees is surely incitement? This may well be a criminal act under the Serious Crimes Act 2007.
“I will be asking the Independent Police Complaints Commission to consider this further.”
Police documents reveal that much of the concern about the centres on the attendance of Cllr Driver, who actually stormed out of the meeting.
After he learned that officers wanted a list of attenders, Cllr Driver said: “It’s deplorable. This was a public debate.
“It was not a meeting planning any actions, protests or demonstrations. It was simply a public discussion about a controversial issue.”
Anti-fracking activist Julie Wassmer, from Whitstable, added: “I was a panel speaker at this uni debate. Outrageous!”
Stuart Jeffery, Green party prospective parliamentary candidate
Kent Police defended the request, claiming it needed the names for security reasons.
The debate saw both pro- and anti-frakcing speakers and as arranged by the university to promote discussion on an emotive subject.
Christ Church and Kent Police have been asked to comment on the revelations.