Police Inspector says ‘If I’m asked to move Travellers on – the key question is to where?’
Police Inspector says complaints he received about Traveller encampment in Leeds were ‘misinformation that has assisted in stoking up anger towards the Travellers’
The Travellers are now safely camped on Leeds Council owned land and are receiving council services
A Police Inspector called out to a Traveller camp in Leeds has said that the “disproportionately high” number of complaints he received from local residents “alleging the encampment being full of rubbish, faeces, etc” were “misinformation,” that was likely to stoke up fear and anger towards Travellers.
“Having visited the site, I can confirm that the site has not been as described and the encampment has been left in a serviceable state with no apparent damage,” said West Yorkshire Police Inspector Mick Preston.
“It is worth pointing out that there are a range of legislative powers and options the Police and Local Authority can consider, which come with legal thresholds and have to be used proportionately,” added Inspector Preston.
“The outcome of the use of these powers to remove encampments will always result in displacement and the key question needs to be – to where?”
The Travellers’ Times understands that the Travellers have now moved to a more suitable piece of local authority owned land where services can be provided under a negotiated stopping agreement.
The response to the coronavirus crisis towards unauthorised encampments by Leeds City Council is seen by many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller charities as an example of ‘best practice’ and fits in with the government’s and police chief’s coronavirus guidance.
Helen Jones, CEO of Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange told the Travellers’ Times that this was because of the hard work done by the charity and local Travellers going back decades that has forged positive links with the local council and police.
However, she added that there were concerns that other councils – particularly in the south of England - could do more.
“Why aren’t the other councils following the example of Leeds City Council?” said Helen Jones.
“These are the questions that need to be asked.”
Councillor Debra Coupar, Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council and Executive Member for Communities said that Leeds is a compassionate city and that the council worked hard to prioritise their most vulnerable families and individuals.
“We are fortunate in having a strong partnership way of working which has been developed across communities, voluntary sector organisations and the public sector during the past decade,” added Cllr Coupar.
“This has enabled us to be able to work effectively together in this time of heightened need for the benefit of all.
Having reached good solutions to enable people to stay put during this health crisis, it is important that others do not travel into Leeds or attempt to join the settlements. We are urging all communities to obey the rules to minimise contact with others through this period.”
West Yorkshire Police Inspector Mick Preston statement in full:
“I can confirm that all of the travellers at the encampment on the car park at Glebelands have now left the site and have moved to alternative Local Authority land. Over a number of days, I have maintained dialogue with Local Authority regarding this issue and have personally visited the site on several occasions, as well as my team, to assess the state of the site and in response to a myriad of e mails reporting several issues on site. Visits have included this afternoon, to confirm that the travellers have moved on and any potential issues with the site. I have noted, as often, that public feelings can run high in regards to the locations of encampments. However, in the current times when emergency services, NHS and Local Authorities are prioritising our activities and incoming e mail contacts in response to a national issue, I have received a disproportionately high number of e mails, of which I have been unable to answer individually in the current climate. A number of the contacts made refer to reports alleging the encampment being full of rubbish, faeces, etc and some of this misinformation has assisted in unnecessarily stoking up fear and sometimes anger within the local community, particularly with additional references to CoronaVirus, social distancing, and a range of theories as to why that location was chosen (by the travellers).
Having visited the site, I can confirm that the site has not been as described and the encampment has been left in a serviceable state with no apparent damage. It is worth pointing out that there are a range of legislative powers and options the Police and Local Authority can consider, which come with legal thresholds and have to be used proportionately. The outcome of the use of these powers to remove encampments will always result in displacement and the key question needs to be – to where?
Inspector Mick Preston”