Archive for the 'Police' Category

Greens need to answer questions on Gypsies and Travellers

Caroline Lucas’s Early Day Motion on Gypsies and Travellers leaves many questions unanswered, not least of which is how it relates to the situation in Brighton & Hove.

1)      She states that “there is no justification for the forced eviction of Gypsies and Travellers where no alternative lawful sites are available and residents seek to live in harmony”. We have an official site in Brighton & Hove – at Horsdean – so perhaps she would like to make a public statement supporting the efforts of the Council and Sussex Police to evict illegal encampments in the City such as those at Black Rock and Wild Park?

2)      Or perhaps she doesn’t think that in Brighton & Hove we have enough “satisfactory and culturally appropriate alternative accommodation” for gypsy and traveller families. In which case, perhaps she could be up front with residents and say exactly where she thinks this should be located in the City.

3)      What exactly does Caroline Lucas mean by seeking to “live in harmony”? I can’t recall ever receiving a single letter or e-mail from a resident welcoming an illegal traveller encampment near their home – perhaps she could enlighten us.

4)      It is certainly true that the children of gypsy and traveller families do significantly worse in terms of education and health outcomes, compared to other families and this is very unfortunate. However, this is not going to be addressed by allowing them to break the law.

5)      Where does Caroline Lucas stand on the issue of van dwellers in Brighton & Hove – in other words, non-ethnic gypsy and travellers who choose to live, unlawfully, on the City’s streets? Does she, for example, agree with the recent judgement at Brighton County Court that the Council was right to seek the eviction of van dwellers at Coldean Lane near the university and that we were not breaching their “human rights” as they had claimed? This is a very live issue in many parts of the City, not least with the summer season approaching and when I tried to raise it at a Council meeting last year, the Greens refused to have a constructive discussion.

As usual with the Greens we get lots of hand-wringing and sloganising but no concrete answers to the problems that residents want us to deal with. Putting forward Early Day Motions is all very laudable but what would they actually do?

The public cost of Smash EDO

I would like to put on public record my thanks to Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett and the Sussex Police for doing such an excellent job on Wednesday of maintaining public order during the Smash EDO demonstration.

I have to say that they were put in an impossible position by the organisers who steadfastly refused to co-operate in any way with the Police, despite their best efforts. Because of this, the Police were forced to deploy more resources than they would otherwise have had to and I understand that the costs of the operation are likely to run into six figures. Shockingly, the Argus report today that the total cost of policing all the Smash EDO demonstrations over the last two years is over 1 million.

This is public money which, in the current financial climate, the Police can ill-afford and I would hope that all political parties will join me in condemning the actions of these people who seem determined to cause maximum disruption to the lives of the residents in this City. Nobody would deny their right to peaceful protest but with that comes a responsibility to the local community and I’m afraid that they have completely lost sight of this.

Plans to crack down on cheap alcohol are controversial but necessary

I warmly welcome the announcement by the Home Secretary at this week’s Conservative Party Conference that supermarkets and other shops are to be banned from selling alcohol at below cost price.

I know that this is a controversial issue because the vast majority of people will drink moderately and sensibly and nobody wants to see them penalised. But we have to face up to the fact that a small minority of people are intent on drinking to excess and I have no doubt that cheap offers in both shops and pubs/clubs have a lot to do with this. We simply cannot go on ignoring the impact that this has on the decent law-abiding majority of people through things like increased policing and health costs and widespread anti-social behaviour. Giving councils the power to charge pubs and clubs a fee if they want to stay open late should also help in particular with the policing costs.

Theresa May also announced much-needed changes to Labour’s 2003 Licensing regime which ushered in 24 hour drinking. These changes open up the possibility of pubs and clubs being banned from late-night opening if there is a detrimental impact of drunkenness and noise on the wider community. At the moment, the public can only object to opening hour extensions or new licensing applications if they are neighbours of the premises but that will now be changed to include anyone in the locality who is affected. Venues may also be refused a licence if local residents believe there are too many existing premises and their neighbourhoods are being damaged.

Although we have a Cumulative Impact Zone in the centre of Brighton, the odds are still very much stacked against councils and residents when it comes to opposing applications to extend licenses or to grant new ones. These proposals, if implemented, should help to swing the scales back the other way to the benefit of local communities. I’m also pleased that the maximum fine for persistently selling alcohol to a minor will be doubled to £20,000. Unscrupulous retailers must be made to understand the wider consequences to the community of their actions.

‘Smash EDO’ Verdict Turns Justice on its Head

I must admit to being completely astonished to read the other week of the ‘not guilty’ verdict in the trial of the ‘Smash EDO’ activists who broke into and caused £200,000 worth of criminal damage to the EDO MBM HQ in Moulsecoomb. These so-called ‘decomissioners’ were adjudged to have acted with “lawful excuse” to prevent further alleged war crimes being committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Palestinian situation I believe that this judgement opens up a real pandora’s box in terms of the law and how it is policed in this country.

The idea that you can now legally and justifiably cause criminal damage to a company/organisation who are acting completely within the law (and incidentally employing significant numbers of local people) just because you don’t agree with what they do, is extremely worrying and sets a dangerous precedent. Where does this leave the Police? Do they now have to make an operational judgement as to whether a criminal act is morally justifiable before deciding whether or not to make arrests?

And I was equally flabbergasted to read that Caroline Lucas, the new Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, had stood up in the court to defend the actions of these people. She is quoted as saying that they had “exhausted all democratic avenues … to prevent further suffering in Gaza.” I would have thought that having a member of parliament to fight their cause in Westminster would have been a very good democratic avenue which clearly can’t already have been exhausted after only 2 months of her taking office.

This isn’t the first time that the Green Party have shown a complete disregard for the law and respect for the institutions that they represent (remember MPs and councillors have a duty to uphold the law and to act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in them). Other examples include:

1) Cllr. Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett stated in a public meeting of the Full Council:

Firstly on the subject of lawfulness, when the Parliament that makes the laws of this country is representative of the people that live in this country then I will observe by the laws of that Parliament. In the meantime I will observe by morals and justice. That’s my personal take on the law while it remains to be such an undiverse and unrepresentative body, I don’t see that those laws can be expected to cover the majority of us.

At the time, she was defending the right of van dwellers to park their vans and live on the public highway – an unlawful activity.

2) Cllr. Ben Duncan (who is ironically the Council’s only representative on the Sussex Police Authority) has regularly publicised ‘Smash EDO’ demonstrations in the City, including advertisements which invite people to ‘come fight and party’.

3) Cllr. Duncan has also described benefit fraud as a ‘petty crime’ and enforcing it is ‘just another way that the poor in society are victimised’.

I could go on….

I am all for the right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech but this must be done within the law – the minute people break those laws, in my view they forfeit that right to protest. Effectively giving the green light for people to cause criminal damage whenever they believe it is ‘morally justified’ is setting a very dangerous precedent.


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