Wales

North Wales PCC 'abused power' over fracking police

Welsh police at Little Plumpton
Image caption The fracking site at Preston New Road has seen a 24-hour police presence

North Wales' police and crime commissioner has been accused of "abusing his position" after he backed the withdrawal of officers from a fracking protest site.

North Wales Police said it would stop assisting police at the protest at Cuadrilla's site near Preston.

PCC Arfon Jones praised the decision but campaign group Backing Fracking said it was "disgraceful" given he opposes shale gas extraction.

Mr Jones said he was "one influence".

The force has had one sergeant and six constables at the site, where demonstrations have been taking place since January.

There have been between 50 and 80 officers at the site assisting Lancashire Constabulary every day, including officers from Cumbria, Merseyside and north Wales.

Mr Jones had tweeted: "No more @NWPolice officers will be going to facilitate Cuadrilla's business in Lancs. Let them pay for their own security. #capacity."

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Media captionNorth Wales Police and Crime Commissioner says he has the "right to speak his mind" over fracking

He said he had been an environmental campaigner before becoming a PCC and opposed fracking as he "considered it a danger in many respects but mainly because of potential pollution of water".

But Backing Fracking has described his actions as "cronyism".

A spokesman said: "It is disgraceful that Mr Jones thinks he can use his political appointment to try and downgrade the policing response to the daily fracking protests seen in Lancashire, especially given that he is opposed to shale gas extraction.

"That's the very definition of cronyism and an abuse of power.

"Not only that, just imagine the furore it would cause if this were being done in reverse - the proud people of north Wales would never stand for it if they thought that Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner was meddling in the affairs of their police force."

Image caption Protestors have been at the site since January

Responding on Tuesday, Mr Jones said his opposition to fracking may have been one influence on the force's decision.

"The operational decision of deploying resources to Lancashire Police is a matter for North Wales Police and not for me," he said.

"But I'm there to represent the views of the people in north Wales and I'm sure they wouldn't be very happy bearing in mind the demand on us during the summer months that we're deploying like that.

"There's also a question whether taxpayers' money should be used to provide security guards for corporate giants without any compensation.

"And the third point is whether Welsh police officers should be sent to police fracking protests when fracking is more or less illegal in their own country."

North Wales Police said it had decided to stop sending further reinforcements "due to high demands in north Wales over the holiday season".

Lancashire Constabulary declined to comment.

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