Travellers used 'military tactics' to create chaos

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT last night pledged new laws to control travellers, as the last hippies evicted from an illegal festival site at Otterbourne, Hampshire, packed up and left, leaving behind a pounds 1m bill for damages.

Earl Ferrers, Minister of State at the Home Office, accused the multitudes of hippies, crusties and ravers of using 'military-style tactics' to create chaos on sites in England and Wales this summer.

After meeting senior police officers at Winchester police headquarters, near to the scene of the latest disturbances, in which a waste disposal plant was burnt down, Lord Ferrers said there was evidence that travellers used motorcycle reconnaissance, fax machines and portable phones to plan 'operations'. He said: 'We are going to see if we can tighten up the law in a way that is effective and acceptable. These people have been responsible for terrible incursions. It isn't a question of a few people wanting to live life in the open. What we are talking about are mass military-style tactics by people who use vehicles and weapons to ride roughshod over the views of other people.

'They get their vehicles nose to tail and use those vehicles like a battering ram. They behave in a way which is totally unacceptable. It's total anarchy.'

Hampshire police cleared a site at Romsey of travellers. It is understood they dispersed in several directions in small numbers. A police spokesman said the evictions took place without problems.

Deputy Chief Constable Michael Mylod said the previous seven days had been marked by 'anarchic behaviour', as his officers acted to prevent the travellers reaching an illegal festival at Bramshott Common, Hampshire.

Mr Mylod said there had been hundreds of complaints from residents, MPs and councillors about the disturbance caused by the travellers. He said police had been driven at and vehicles damaged, including a motorcycle which was run over. Vehicles were rammed at road blocks, officers were abused and stones and fencing panels thrown at them. Three officers had been injured, he said.

Dozens of travellers were reported for traffic offences and there were about 30 arrests for alleged offences including theft, drugs, damage and driving while disqualified.

But the travellers, who cleared rubbish up at the two sites, denied causing the damage to the waste disposal and recycling plant at Otterbourne, blaming it on the work of ravers who visit the sites from their homes in towns and cities.

A nationwide hunt has been called by the High Court for two missing children whose mother is thought to have taken them with her in a convoy of travellers which attended the gathering at Otterbourne. The children, Jenny Hopkins, nine, and her brother Gareth, six, have not been seen by their father, Leslie Hopkins, of Norwich, since he handed them over to their mother Christina Cudyllglas for a routine weekend access visit on 26 July.

Mary Pearce, solicitor for Mr Hopkins said: 'They were seen outside Bristol last week and were believed to be heading for the festival at Hampshire.'