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London: Police have come under fire after a major security breach at Rishi Sunak’s constituency home, where a group of environmental activists were able to drape the house in fabric and climb onto the roof.
Greenpeace protesters entered the grounds of British prime minister’s listed manor house in North Yorkshire early on Thursday, using ladders and ropes to scale the building. Sunak announced hundreds of new licences for North Sea oil and gas extraction on Monday.
Greenpeace activists sit on the roof of Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s house in Richmond, North Yorkshire, England.Credit: AP
After staging a five-hour protest on the roof, in which they draped part of the house in black cloth, the activists climbed down and were arrested by officers from North Yorkshire Police.
Assistant Chief Constable Elliot Foskett said there had been no threat to the wider public and the incident had been brought to a “safe conclusion”.
But a retired senior officer accused his former force of having no plan in place to protect the prime minister, whose primary residence is in London, and said the activists could have been terrorists planting a bomb.
Peter Walker, who left the force in 2003, demanded an urgent review into the incident, which he said raised serious questions for Lisa Winward, the current chief constable.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, his wife Akshata Murty and his daughters Anoushka Sunak and Krishna Sunak pose for a photo at Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California on Thursday.Credit: Reuters
“The Greenpeace protesters were able to get into the property and onto the roof without any interference at all, so it seems to me that either there wasn’t a plan to keep the premises secure in the absence of the Sunaks or alternatively the plan has not been effectively managed or implemented,” he said.
“I really think this is a major failing, and it grieves me to say it because it’s my old police force that has failed.”
While Sunak and his family are currently on holiday in California, Walker said the trespassers could have been extremists seeking to plant a bomb, adding: “Terrorists only need to get lucky once. We need to be lucky all the time.”
A Conservative MP said: “This begs very serious questions. How can the prime minister’s house be invaded so quickly?
“Had that been a terrorist organisation, for example, they could have gone there and taken over. It is quite shocking. I think the nation will be surprised this has been allowed to happen, and they will expect a serious consideration of how this can be prevented.”
Earlier this year, North Yorkshire Police was criticised by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary after a report found it required improvement in four areas, including protecting vulnerable people, and was inadequate in organisational management.
The force confirmed it had been called to the prime minister’s constituency home in the village of Kirby Sigston, near Northallerton, at 8.06am following reports that protesters were climbing onto the roof.
Its statement said officers responded “swiftly”, but a video released by the group showed activists calmly entering the grounds carrying ladders and climbing equipment before posing for pictures. They then carefully scaled the building using safety equipment before unfurling an anti-oil banner.
Greenpeace demonstrators draped the country estate of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in black fabric Thursday to protest his plan to expand oil and gas drilling in the North Sea. Credit: AP
Sunak, who is the MP for nearby Richmond, this week announced plans to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves by granting more than 100 new licences for extraction in the North Sea.
He also hinted that the UK’s largest untapped oil field, Rosebank, to the west of Shetland, could be approved despite fierce opposition from environmental campaigners.
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told the protesters to “stop the stupid stunts”, while Brendan Clarke-Smith, a backbencher, said: “MPs and their families have enough to worry about with their security without extremist groups and their spoilt activists pulling stunts like this at their homes to promote their unrealistic, extravagant demands and student union-level politics.”
Alicia Kearns, the senior Tory who chairs the Commons foreign affairs committee, said the protest was “unacceptable”.
“Politicians live in the public eye and rightly receive intense scrutiny, but their family homes should not be under assault,” she added. “Before long police will need to be stationed outside the home of every MP.”
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said: “Targeting someone’s home like this is disgraceful and totally unacceptable. This is against the law and rightly the police are taking enforcement action. The prime minister’s home and family should never be targeted in this way.”
Philip Evans, a Greenpeace climate campaigner, defended the action. He said the group had knocked on the door when they arrived and said “this is a peaceful protest”, but there was no answer.
Asked whether it was intrusive to target someone’s home, Evans said: “This is the prime minister. He is the one that was standing in Scotland going to drill for every last drop of oil while the world is burning.”
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said five people – three men and two women – had been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and public nuisance and remained in police custody.
Greenpeace is no stranger to high-profile publicity events, and its latest stunt appears to mimic the activities of groups such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.
The Telegraph, London
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