Unauthorised Traveller encampments: Essex Police is acting reasonably and proportionately within the law
I fully understand and appreciate the distress and the frustration experienced by some residents of Harlow with regard to unauthorised Traveller encampments in the area.
As PCC, a key part of my role is to understand the issues and act as a bridge between the concerns of the community and Essex Police and partner agencies. I have had considerable direct involvement, including making visits to Harlow with Essex Police to learn more about what is happening on the ground. I have attended two meetings called by Robert Halfon MP, with colleagues from the council and the force, and on one occasion with Minister Brandon Lewis MP.
I also held a lively two-hour public meeting in Harlow on September 17, attended by around one hundred people, including some members of theTravelling community. I am continuing to talk directly with Travellers, which was one of the objectives that I laid out following that meeting.
I understand that the MPs have questioned whether I am holding Chief Constable Kavanagh to account over the policing of unauthorised encampments. I discuss this issue regularly with the Chief Constable and his senior team, and my firm view is that Essex Police is acting proportionately and reasonably within the law with regard to unauthorised Traveller encampments.
I also committed to speak with council leaders to discuss the appropriate and balanced provision of permanent Traveller sites across Essex. There is a chronic under-provision of Traveller sites across Essex, and there is not a single transit site in our county. One consequence is that police are not able to use Section 62 powers with regard to unauthorised encampments.
I re-iterate that fly-tipping, littering and other actions which deface our towns and countryside, when committed by members of any community, are unacceptable. I support the appropriate authorities – whether that is the police or the council – in seeking to prosecute those responsible where the evidence allows.
With regard to unauthorised Traveller encampments in Thurrock, I have not received any correspondence from Jackie Doyle-Price or members of the public about this matter, but will speak with the MP to learn more about the underlying issues.
I have however engaged with communities and their representatives in Canvey Island, Basildon, Brentwood, Uttlesford and Epping Forest in recent months. This is a countywide problem. I am clear that however well it is policed, policing alone cannot offer a solution.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex