Police ‘screwed up’ over travellers, says councillor

Residents question councillor David Simmons over the travellers on Southwick Green
Residents question councillor David Simmons over the travellers on Southwick Green

A COUNCILLOR has criticised the police response to travellers camped at Southwick Green, making an official complaint to the police and crime commissioner.

County councillor for Southwick Janet Mockridge said she was ‘hopping mad’, and accused Sussex Police of ‘completely mishandling the whole affair’.

“The police have really screwed up,” she said.

“They should have had these travellers off within 24 hours. The police should have taken notice of the fact that local residents were going to be disadvantaged by this.”

Mrs Mockridge said she believed the police ‘made the wrong call’ by not using their powers under section 61 of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act to remove the travellers within 24 hours of their arrival.

“We have got caravans parked within yards of people’s front doors, generators running till 3am and people defecating on the green. It really isn’t on to have people in such close proximity to residential areas like this.”

Responding, Katy Bourne said she shared residents’ frustrations at the ‘inconvenience and disturbance’ caused by travellers, especially if their presence was intimidating, and said she would respond to the complaint directly.

She added that complaints against particular officers would be a matter for the Chief Constable, and said she would raise concerns with him at their next meeting.

“While I was made aware of the initial arrival of travellers to Southwick Green, as PCC I cannot intervene in operations or direct the response to events,” said Mrs Bourne.

“The policing response has to be balanced and proportionate and in partnership with the local authority, before officers can deploy legal notices to leave.

“I will, however, be asking for a thorough assessment of the way the police and local authority responded this weekend.”

The complaint came after a lively police street briefing attended by around 60 residents, councillors and business owners, at which Inspector Allan Lowe addressed the crowd in the car park of The Cricketers pub, opposite the green.

Insp Lowe took questions from a number of angry residents, demanding to know why more had not been done to remove the travellers.

Many, including Glynis Daughtery, felt their questions had gone unanswered.

“I don’t think it has been at all successful because I feel everybody’s just passing the buck,” said Mrs Daughtery.

“No answers were actually given, just excuses about the amount of time it takes get a court hearing.”

Later that evening, bailiffs moved on six of the caravans with police on standby.

Overnight on Friday, three more caravans arrived, but the remaining 15 then left on Saturday evening at around 5pm, when police opted to use their section-61 powers.

Soutwhick resident David Fiore said he was disappointed the street briefing had been held at 2pm.

“It’s not a cross section of local people because most working people can’t be here,” he said.

​“It looks as though all the people are old age pensioners and it’s a nimby thing.”

Mr Fiore said councillors and the police had been ‘fobbed off’ residents and unless the green was ‘made a fortress’ the travellers would come back.

A police spokesman said officers had not moved the travellers on Friday because they had not bee causing a ‘significant disruption’.

Adur Council cabinet member David Simmons also took questions at the briefing.

He said 2014 was the first year there had been problems on the green, and more needed to be done to ‘minimise future incursions’.

He said the issue would be discussed at the next cabinet meeting, including the option of putting a barrier of some kind around the green.