Use injunction on travellers, say police

18 August 2000

Use injunction on travellers, say police

By Donald MacPhail

POLICE have urged farmers not to take the law into their own hands to try to persuade travellers to leave their land.

The advice came after farmers leader Derek Mead sprayed slurry on a Somerset field occupied by travellers after they refused to leave.

Similar action was taken last month by Suffolk farmer Tony Warin who also wanted to move people off his land.

But a spokeswoman for Avon and Somerset Constabulary said producers should seek a court injunction to make travellers leave rather than resorting to direct action.

If farmers experience this type of invasion they should not take the law into their hands but go to the courts to get an injunction, she said.

This can be done quickly and at a relatively low cost.

Mr Mead, a leading light in the Farmers for Action group, farms at Kewstoke, near Weston-Super-Mare.

He said he was forced to spray the slurry because police had ignored repeated requests to move the group on and local feelings were running high.

Mr Mead claimed that officers had told him he would have to pay to have the 60-strong band moved on.

Police had refused to arrest a young traveller who threw a brick through a tractor window, he added.

But the spokeswoman for Avon and Somerset Constabulary said no complaints had been received about the travellers and it was not considered an appropriate use of police powers to move them on.

They could simply have decamped to an adjacent field and the whole procedure would have to be started again, she said.

An injunction would provide a more permanent solution.

The spokeswoman insisted that while officers may have pointed out the cost of police action, if police believed action should be taken landowners would not be expected to pay.

She added that officers could not follow up the broken window incident as no one was able to give a description of the culprit.

Charles Smith, chair of the Gypsy Council which represents travellers, condemned Mr Meads actions as completely uncivilised.

Mr Smith said: Two wrongs dont make a right, and for a farmer to spray slurry onto a field where there are children is simply barbaric.

Farmers should follow the legal path and try talking to Gypsies, instead of talking at them.

Mr Smith said the root of the problem was that there were not enough authorised sites for travellers.

The travellers decided to leave Mr Meads land the next day.

This was not as a result of the slurry spreading, said Mr Mead, but because he had threatened to take further action to demobilise their caravans

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