Police response to complaint over Haywards Heath art trail CCTV

Anvil sculpture.
Anvil sculpture.

A formal complaint has been made to Sussex Police after CCTV footage from Haywards Heath town centre was apparently wiped.

It was believed it may have included images of the vandals who damaged the town’s art trail.

After weeks of appeals to Sussex Police to look at the CCTV, Haywards Heath Community CIC director Marion Wilcocks was finally told last week that footage from both locations had been wiped.

But when the Middy asked Sussex Police for a comment, we were told that the CCTV had been checked after all, and that there were no sign of the culprits.

The formal complaint was made by Gordon Parr, of Mill Road, Burgess Hill, whose son, Theo, was a victim of the vandalism.

Mr Parr describes Sussex Police’s actions as “unacceptable and not fit for purpose” in respect of criminal damage to artwork in the Community CIC Art Trail in April.

He said Theo had invested large amounts of time and effort into his artwork, as he had to support his son, plus money, and it was “particularly disgraceful” that exhibition organiser Marion Wilcock’s efforts to elicit a minimum appropriate response from Sussex Police were thwarted.

He credits the Mid Sussex Times for last week’s page three article that brought the incident and the wiping of CCTV footage to public attention, while adding: “That this matter has had to reach such a hiatus seems in itself quite scandalous.”

Sculptor Paul Badhams’ £6,000 ballerina on Sussex Road roundabout was knocked over by vandals and its plinth smashed, while 25-year-old trainee stonemason Theo’s sculpture of an anvil and hammer, that was hewn from a single piece of stone, was repeatedly kicked on the corner of Victoria Park.

Joanna Saady, chairman of the Community CIC, said she had every sympathy with Mr Parr’s complaint to the police.

She said: “Theo’s work was brilliant and beautiful. I cannot say how deeply saddened the CIC was to learn that the opportunity to catch the culprits had been lost. I urge anyone with any information to come forward. I do hope that this will lead to a positive improvement in vigilance for all of us on our streets.”

Chief Inspector Simon Beardwell, district commander, said: “Officers did view CCTV following a report of damage to two sculptures in Haywards Heath but unfortunately they did not show any suspects or damage being committed. This was a short time after the Police Contact Centre initially took the call and forwarded it to the Neighbourhood Policing Team, mentioning the resource implication in viewing CCTV without a specific timescale.

“When a crime is reported to Sussex Police it will be assessed to establish if there are any viable lines of enquiry that can be progressed which in this case there were. Once this was identified they were followed through but unfortunately they did not identify any suspects.

“We understand the frustration of the victims of this crime and we did all we could to update them in relation to this enquiry. On not finding any evidence on CCTV officers posted warning posters in the town as a deterrent reminding people of the presence of CCTV and carried out enquiries with local shops and businesses to in an effort to identify any other lines of enquiry.

“CCTV is a key part to any investigation and where possible it will be reviewed to obtain identity of any suspects or assist in investigations. This does not only apply to police CCTV but also that of local shops and businesses and where there are opportunities to make use of these systems police will approach the owners and use this in addition to their own systems.”