THE POLICE are not using their powers to tackle the problem of gipsies taking over public land, according to a concerned councillor.
Coun Martyn Bolt demanded the chief constable and police commissioner take action after further trouble recently with travellers in Mirfield and Shaw Cross.
In particular he wants Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act used more often.
Police used that power last Friday when a group of gispsies occupied the playing fields of Shaw Cross Sharks, where a rugby gala was due to be held next day.
It was just the latest in a series of issues the club has had with travellers who have repeatedly managed to get past obstructions aimed at keeping them off the fields.
But Coun Bolt (Con, Mirfield) said the police did not do so when the gipsies returned there last Sunday.
He said: “Vehicles were parked around the perimeter and police said they wouldn’t use their powers because people still had access to the pitches.
A meeting was held in Mirfield last Sunday after two gipsy camps caused problems.
Playing fields off Old Bank Road and Stocks Lane were targeted, though both groups had left by last Sunday night.
Residents told of dog walkers being confronted, rubbish being thrown into their gardens and being kept awake by generators running all night.
There were also claims gipsies defecated in the Old Bank Road playing fields in full view of residents.
Kirklees Council had secured an eviction notice which was due to be served at 12noon on Monday.
Some gipsies moved from Old Bank Road to the Rocket Park playground off Stocks Bank Road last Saturday night, allegedly breaking off a padlock to gain entry.
Furious locals attended a public meeting at the Airedale Heifer pub at around 4pm last Sunday.
Coun Bolt said Kirklees took flak and added: “Residents are saying something must be done. When things turn to anger, it’s often the council that gets blamed but in this case the anger is misdirected.
“The police have the powers to act, but aren’t using them, though it’s their job to maintain public order. The remit lays with them, and unless the law has dramatically changed, they have to uphold the law without fear or favour.”
Police defend actions
POLICE defended their actions against gipsies who caused problems in Mirfield and Shaw Cross last week.
Travellers who put a rugby gala at the Shaw Cross Sharks ground in doubt were moved on by officers last Friday.
Police also intervened when gipsies occupied a children’s playground in Mirfield last Saturday night. Insp Jenny Thompson, of the Dewsbury and Mirfield NPT, visited Rocket Park off Stocks Bank Road last Sunday morning.
The gipsies were gone by the time a public meeting was held at a pub later that day.
Coun Martyn Bolt has called for police to use their powers under Section 61 of the Criminal and Public Order Act more often.
But Chief Supt Steve Cotter, of Kirklees Police, said: “Section 61 powers are normally only used for land such as school playing fields during the school term or a cemetery, where the impact to local communities is significant, which would not necessarily be the case with this land at Shaw Cross.
“However, officers liaised with partner agencies including the rugby club and Kirklees Council to assess the community impact and considered the welfare of all involved.
“It was apparent that there would be significant disruption to the community if the travellers remain-ed on this site, as the Leeds Road Rugby Gala was due to take place, which would bring an excess of 700 people on the site. The decision was therefore made to issue the Section 61 notice.”
The Mirfield Show is on Sunday and organisers have put new locks on the main gate and a large boulder in front to deter illegal entry.
Meanwhile, a clean-up is under way in Mirfield, where gipsies were on playing fields off Old Bank Road for 10 days.
The cost of a specialist hygiene operation to deal with human excrement and other waste is expected to cost taxpayers thousands of pounds.
Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield) said: “The council can ill-afford it but they have to find the money.
“And at the end of the financial year, if unexpected costs like this have increased greatly, the council may have to make some difficult decisions that could affect public services.”