John Evans

The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall replies to recent reports that a woman was arrested for taking wood from a country park
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The Independent Online

It is often said: "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story." Rarely has it been more appropriate than in the coverage given to the incident in which police were alerted after someone drove off with a log from the Stover Country Park in Devon.

Lest people are left with the false impression that officers from Devon and Cornwall constabulary have nothing better to do with their time than head off in hot pursuit of people collecting sticks for their wood burners, a few facts might be reassuring.

The country park has suffered a series of thefts in recent weeks. The police were called when a park ranger saw someone put a log in the back of a car which was then driven away.

The log in question was not merely a stick picked up by a dog, but was a log four or five feet in length which had been put aside to be used later in the construction of a bird table.

A vehicle check quickly led to a police officer identifying who had taken the log. He contacted the driver and suggested it should be taken back, which it was. End of story. No further police action. Bird table component returned to its rightful owner.

A more generous interpretation of those facts might have been: a sensible piece of police work which avoided any report for consideration of prosecution.

Of course my officers deal with far more serious incidents than this one but we do need to respond effectively to all calls for assistance from the public.

I am satisfied that, on this occasion, our response was appropriate. We are said to have taken a lot of stick following this incident, and that the dog and its owner should not have been hounded. I can assure your readers we were not barking up the wrong tree and we resolved the issue effectively without sapping our resources.