POLICE and crime commissioner Katy Bourne faced tough questions on travellers when she was grilled by councillors last night (Thursday, January 22).
The commissioner defended an improving and ‘robust’ police stance on traveller encampments across Adur and Worthing at the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Worthing Town Hall.
While accepting the response to some isolated incidents may have fallen short, Mrs Bourne said plans to open a legal transit site in Chichester would give police more powers to move travellers on.
She said: “My personal opinion is the police have really strong powers. Section 61 allows them to direct travellers off the site and Section 62 to move them to a transit site. If they don’t go, they have to leave the district for three months. That is a powerful piece of legislation if you are a traveller.”
Some councillors believed public perception was police gave more consideration to travellers than residents.
Shoreham Beach councillor Liza McKinney said: “Now here’s a complaint for you. Travellers arrived on Beach Green. They broke in. If I broke in I am sure I would be in the pokey in no time at all.
“Police turned up and spoke to the travellers and tried to persuade them to leave so one of the travellers promptly urinated standing right next to the policeman with the kids and the parents all there and the policemen frankly didn’t do a thing about it and just drove off.
“Now how about that - what does that tell the public? I was appalled.”
Mrs Bourne said she could not comment on specific incidents but was happier with the way police now dealt with the issue, compared to when she took office.
Adur and Worthing chief inspector Jo Banks added police had already met with councillors and the community to discuss the incident.
Mrs Bourne later said: “The travellers are very savvy and very well resourced.
“They have human rights lawyers far more expensive than anything we can afford and the day we put in section 61 that has a chink and they win in court it will be open season.”