'Locked out' - mother set to fight council after blocked ambulance risks child's life
Traveller site entrance barrier putting residents lives at risk says mother of two Rosina James
“I’m not sure how long the ambulance had been down there before they called the control centre who then called me to tell me that the ambulance was locked out and couldn’t get to us,” says Rosina James. Rosina’s husband rushed down to the Traveller site gates to try to help the ambulance crew get access leaving Rosina to cradle new born baby Alber, who had turned blue in the face and had breathing difficulties. “In the moment it felt like life and death,” says Rosina.
Minutes count when you are cradling your new-born baby in your arms as his face turns blue from breathing difficulties, and it took many minutes for the ambulance crew to get to mother of two Rosina James trailer on a Dorset Council run Traveller site. The ambulance had reached the entrance gates of the site as quick as they could but they could go no further. Their way to Rosina James home was blocked by a locked height restriction bar, and no-one had the key or the combination to the lock. Rosina James will never forget that night of panic and fear, the effects of which still give her flash-backs today - which is why she is taking the council to the courts to get the barrier removed. Rosina James says that if she wins the legal challenge, there are many other similar height restriction barriers across the country on council run rented sites that will have to be removed. However, if she loses Rosina could be faced with legal costs numbering into the thousands of pounds. This is why the Travellers’ Times is supporting Rosina James crowd funder to raise money for this key legal case.
Once Rosina’s husband had reached the entrance gate, it took the ambulance crew a further five long minutes to get through the barrier. The crew had finally got the combination from their control HQ, but the padlock was out of reach and inset into a security box, but eventually the ambulance was through the gate and the crew – who Rosina says where “excellent” - could reach her and baby Alber’s home with their state-of-the-art breathing equipment.
“My husband and one of the crew members stood at the barrier with phone torches whilst another crew member balanced on a concrete block attempting to unlock the padlock,” says Rosina. “Meanwhile I am cuddling my baby and looking after my other son. Even now I get really upset when I talk about it,” she adds, her voice catching with emotion. “I would never ever want anybody to have to go through that again.”
Baby Alber is now doing well at seven months old and the breathing problems have not come back. But the height barrier and the rusty combination padlock remain and the sole concession Dorset Council has made is to hang a cheap plastic torch on a string next to the padlock – so future emergency crews can see the combination dials.
“The barrier needs to come down,” says Rosina. “Obviously giving the residents the code to combination padlock on the barrier would be a start,” she says but adding locks rust and stick, codes get mislaid by emergency services, and residents might not be able to find the code in an emergency when minutes count. “It’s blocking quick access to ambulances and fire engines and – God forbid – in a medical emergency or a fire seconds could count. I have tried many times to speak with members of the council about the code being given to residents or the barrier being removed but I was told this was not allowed for various reasons. This isn’t the first time an incident has happened, there have been similar incidents to mine.”
This is why Rosina is taking Dorset Council to court with the first preliminary hearing set to take place this Friday 13th November. Rosina James is being represented by the law firm Taylor Rose TTKW, who are working on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. However, if her legal challenge is unsuccessful, she may well have to pay Dorset Council’s legal fees. She has been warned that if this happens, she could be left with a bill for thousands of pounds.
“I am a fighter,” says Rosina. “Every time that one of my children show any signs of being unwell, I start to panic as I wonder if we need any assistance from emergency services are they going to be able to reach my children in time.”
Rosina adds that it is illegal to block access to emergency services, something that she hopes the court will take into account.
“I am looking to raise funds to help with legal fees to allow me to take my case to court and prosecute the council,” says Rosina. “It is a criminal offence to obstruct or hinder emergency services and I hope that if the court finds the council guilty that the council will decide to remove the barrier altogether. It may even have an impact on other sites up and down the country with the same problem.”
Rosina is being supported by local Gypsy and Traveller rights charity Kushti Bok. Speaking to the Travellers’ Times, Kushti Bok Chair Betty Billington – herself a Romany Gypsy – said that the locked barrier was an accident waiting to happen.
“There have been too many issues with this particular barrier,” said Betty Billington. What will it take before these residents can feel safe in their own homes?”
“Walking to the caravans with large amounts of medical equipment etc, maybe in the pouring rain or snowstorms, is not the answer,” added Betty Billington.
“These residents deserve the same human rights as the rest of society. The residents should be given a choice of whether they feel safe with or without a barrier and the choice of having a key or key code surely is a basic human right.
Well done to Rosina James for bringing this to everyone attention, please if you can support this young family, it may save a life. Kushti Bok will always support Traveller rights.”
To support Rosina in her important fight please donate to her fundraiser. Rosina needs to raise at least £120 in the next ten days or the fundraiser is invalid and all the money raised so far will be returned to the doners: ALLOWING ACCESS FOR EMERGENCY SERVICES - FOR MY FAMILY AND YOURS!
Mike Doherty/TT News
(Main picture: Rosina James and her family courtesy of Rosina James)