Published: 00:00, 04 February 2015
| Updated: 10:14, 04 February 2015
Kent Police has been accused of an "abuse of power" following allegations 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”.
Kent Police has already come under fire for asking that the university hand over a list of all those who attended. Its 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”.
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.”
Christ Church confirmed it knew officers were attending the meeting.
Spokesman Holly Finch said: "The debate, Fracking in the UK, was an open meeting to the public and any person could apply for tickets.
"Due to the booking system in place, the university was aware that members of Kent Police were attending the event. The booking system does not ask people booking to state their reason for attendance."
Police documents reveal that much of its concern 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!”
The debate saw both pro- and anti-fracking speakers and was arranged by the university to promote discussion on an emotive subject.
Kent Police has defended its activities in relation to the fracking debate.
Spokesman Adam Westgarth said: "As part of our enquiries to ascertain the organisation of the public debate, we asked the university for details of its administration and security arrangements.
"As part of those enquiries we asked for the capacity of the venue and if the organisers were recording details of those who had registered to attend.
"At no point did Kent Police ask for those attendees’ names to be handed over.
"In regards to police attendance at the event and the question of his role as a stakeholder, Ch Insp Stephen Barlow as District Commander for Dover, attended the public debate and did so because there are a number of exploratory drilling applications in his policing district.
"He attended in his capacity the local lead for policing in Dover and no other.
"As District Commander Ch Insp Barlow is expected to have a good grasp of the issues affecting his district in a policing capacity to ensure that he and his officers continue to provide a first class service to the people of Dover.
"Ch Insp Barlow registered to attend the same way other attendees registered and gave his rank and his contact address as Dover Police Station."
Mr Westgarth added that Kent Police had received a complaint from Mr Jeffery and is currently conducting a review.
It will share its findings with him and the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner.