Friday, 23 Oct 2020

HS2 bailiffs investigated for 'breaking protester's jaw' while off duty

Contractors hired to force anti-HS2 protesters out of an ancient woodland are under police investigation for allegedly assaulting protesters while off duty.

Metro.co.uk understands four National Eviction Team (NET) bailiffs have been suspended following a confrontation with three activists in a hotel car park in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, on Sunday, which left one in hospital with a broken jaw.

The protesters were driving home from an HS2 Rebellion camp in nearby Cubbington and pulled in at the Ramada Warwick Hotel, where NET enforcers were known to be staying, to try and guess how many bailiffs would be present at the camp’s eviction the next day by counting the vehicles.

Driver Alex, 24, who did not wish to give his full name, told Metro.co.uk: ‘As we turned around in the car park one of them blocked us from leaving with his vehicle, forced entry to our car and took the key, although I was able to snatch it back.

‘They wanted us to get out and fight but we are totally non-violent. Eventually someone opened the car, punched me in the face at least three times and broke my jaw.’

The other male protester, Simon, 37, said he was ‘poked and pushed forcefully’ in the face while the woman, Dimi, 29 was unhurt.

Alex said they were allowed to drive out ‘when it became clear we were not going to leave the vehicle to fight back’.

He was referred to a specialist unit at University Hospital Coventry after going to A&E at Warwick Hospital and has since been discharged.

The Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists had visited a campsite by Rugby Road, Cubbington, set up to obstruct tree felling in the local area.

One of the trees due to be cut down is the 250-year-old Cubbington Pear Tree, the second-largest wild pear tree in the country, which was voted England’s Tree of the Year in 2015.

National Eviction Team bailiffs have been used as arms-length subcontractors for several major evictions of protesters along HS2 worksites, including one which left a 19-year-old activist hospitalised after he was cut down from a 20-foot treeline in July.

Also known as High Court Enforcement Group, the NET are contracted to security firm Control Risks, who were hired by HS2 to carry out all enforcement work for the rail project.

The NET’s website describes its staff as ‘highly skilled at making problems go away’.

Alex added: ‘I’m still in shock. I’ve seen the NET hurt my friends before but I never expected to get attacked outside of a protest.

‘I went to the hotel out of concern for the people I’d met at Rugby Road Protection Camp. I wanted to give them a heads up about how many [bailiffs] would come in the morning – exactly because of this kind of violence.

No arrests have yet been made but Metro.co.uk understands CCTV footage from the hotel car park has been handed to detectives.

A spokesperson for the National Eviction Team said: ‘We are aware of an incident which is being investigated by the police. This incident took place away from any site operations and after the individuals concerned had finished work for the day.

‘They were not engaged in any activity for the National Eviction Team at the time. We will cooperate fully with any request for information from the police but, as the matter is under investigation, cannot comment any further.’

Bailiffs cleared out the Rugby Road Camp on Friday, allowing HS2 workers to fell a number of oak trees and paving the way for further works in the South Cubbington Woods.


A spokesperson for Warwickshire Police said: ‘We’re investigating a report of an assault in the car park at the Ramada Hotel, Chesford Bridge, Kenilworth.

‘The incident occurred on Sunday evening. Two males were allegedly assaulted. One suffered a serious face injury.’

A spokesperson for HS2 said they were aware of the incident but stressed the NET enforcers were not working for HS2 or on HS2 land at the time.

Wyndham Hotels, which owns the Ramada Warwick, declined to comment.

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