South Yorkshire Police has revealed it spent £47,000 on overtime in just one month as it sent dozens of extra officers to tree-felling operations in Sheffield – as the only protester to be charged so far during that time said the case against him dropped. The force made the decision to send additional officers to work following what it termed as “disorder and violence” in January after clashes between protesters and private security guards hired by council contractor Amey.
The new policy started from February 26 and continued until work was put on hold by Amey and the council on March 26 in the wake of a growing national outcry. Thousands of street trees are being removed in the city and replaced with saplings as part of the 25-year Streets Ahead highways maintenance contract between Sheffield Council and Amey but campaigners have argued that many healthy trees are being removed unnecessarily.
The revised police operation which started in late February saw over 30 officers being sent out on some days to accompany private security guards to felling operations, with almost 20 arrests of campaigners protesting against the removal of trees. In one of most-publicised incidents, a woman was arrested for blowing a toy horn under the Public Order Act.
One man, Justin Buxton, was charged with obstructing the highway and was due to appear in court next Tuesday but told The Yorkshire Post today he was informed on Friday afternoon that the case against him has been discontinued by the CPS. He said he had been arrested after crossing a road near to a tree-felling operation by some temporary traffic lights on the alleged grounds that both lights had to be turned to red because of where he was standing.
Speaking on Friday morning at a press conference organised by the Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG) and attended by representatives from South Yorkshire Police, Superintendent Paul McCurry said the force had attempted to use officers working on their normal shifts, with these costs part of the normal policing budget.