Police want new laws on travellers

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

CHIEF CONSTABLES warned yesterday that the police needed improved powers to protect common and private land if they were to prevent travellers and ravers gathering for impromptu festivals, writes Terry Kirby.

Ron Hadfield, Chief Constable of the West Midlands and chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers' public order committee, said after a meeting with Earl Ferrers, Minister of State at the Home Office, that police did not want 'Draconian powers'.

Mr Hadfield said: 'We have given ownership of the problem to the Home Office and told them that . . . existing laws are simply not enough.' He added that it was a question of striking a balance between 'the right of travellers to travel' and the complaints of residents and landowners about loud music and intrusive behaviour.

According to Mr Hadfield, Lord Ferrers and Home Office officials were 'surprised' when police outlined the full extent of the problem, including the numbers of travellers, the difficulties in predicting where they were likely to gather next, and the drain on police resources. The meeting follows the gathering of about 4,000 travellers and more than 15,000 ravers at Castlemorton, in Hereford and Worcester, in late May.

The delegation told the Home Office that the police needed amended public order powers to seize sound equipment and remove vehicles. Clearer definition was also needed on the differences between New Age travellers and more traditional gypsies, between common land and private property, and over the situation regarding bridleways and other public rights of way across otherwise private land.