Derbyshire Police Federation

Geoff makes the move to special branch

29 August 2022

Geoff Marshall

Geoff Marshall hones his tree-climbing skills.

Derbyshire PC Geoff Marshall proved he had a head for heights when he took part in a tree-climbing course designed for officers policing protests.

Geoff and four fellow students underwent the specialist training at a centre near Matlock under the watchful eye of a professional arborist.

The course covered every aspect of tree-climbing and dealing with tree-top protests and, although it sounds like every schoolboy's dream, it was run on very serious lines and dealt with the subject in a professional manner. Geoff hopes to  achieve a City and Guilds certificate to show for it.

He said: “The instructor was extremely knowledgable and we basically spent the week tree-climbing with him.

“There is an awful lot more to it than you'd think - looking for the right points to fasten on to, being roped onto trees, moving safely within a large tree without coming down and all sorts of other things.

“Treetop protests by their very nature can be potentially dangerous for both the police and the protesters which is the reason we are taking this type of training seriously.

“It was extremely hard work but really enjoyable.”

Geoff is a long-serving member of the Derbyshire Police uniformed task force which is often deployed to protests.

He said: “We had quite a few incidents at protests when fracking was in the headlines with people locking-on to gates and things like that and there was another one where we had someone up a bamboo tripod.”

In recent years there have been high-profile tree-top protests in Warwickshire with activists trying to stop contractors clearing woodlands to make way for the HS2 rail link and also in Lancashire where locals scaled trees that were due to be felled as part of the expansion of a sports club.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act which was passed earlier this year will have an impact on the way officers are deployed at demonstrations and deal with protesters.

Chief Constables can now put more conditions on static protests, such as those organised by groups like Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain where roads and bridges are occupied.

The new law also includes an offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” which is designed to stop people occupying public spaces, hanging off bridges or employing other similar tactics.

Geoff said the protest movement seemed to have grown in recent years with activists going to ever more elaborate - and potentially dangerous - lengths to try to get their messages across.

He said: “It is something that is obviously ongoing and I think nationally it could become a huge problem so we are upskilling to make sure we have everything in place.”



March 2023