Kevin Meagher covers the eviction at Dale Farm, and asks what the police meant by “intelligence” they had about the tactics of protestors and the defences they had erected, which saw officers “fully equipped” to counter them.
As police and bailiffs this morning moved in to clear the illegal Dale Farm traveller site in Essex, they faced tough questioning about their heavy-handed tactics which has so far seen two people tasered, seven arrests and several people receive treatment from the ambulance service for injuries sustained during the eviction.
An on-site press conference this morning saw both Conservative leader of Basildon Borough Council, Tony Ball, and Superintendent Trevor Roe of Essex Police repeatedly refer to the “intelligence” they had about the tactics of protestors and the defences they had erected, which saw officers “fully equipped” to counter them.
This raises an intriguing question as to whether the police have undercover officers operating among the protestors at Dale Farm providing them with their intelligence.
An Essex police spokesman refused to be drawn either way when asked by Left Foot Forward saying they would not put that kind of information into the public domain.
Coincedentally, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is set to publish a report this week into the controversial case of PC Mark Kennedy, the undercover policeman who infiltrated the environmental protest movement – and whose explosive admissions back in January led to the collapse of cases against campaigners charged with trying to occupy the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire last year.
The report, written by the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bernard Hogan-Howe (while he was serving with HMIC), is expected to strongly criticise the failure to properly supervise his activities as an undercover operative, which included engaging in sexual relationships with those he was spying on.
It will be the first of eight separate reports from policing agencies into the issue of undercover police officers. As Left Foot Forward put it at the time:
“focusing scarce police resources on expensive and seemingly unproductive enviro-spookery is…a questionable use of resources.”
Meanwhile back at Dale Farm, St. Helens council has hit out at suggestions from Basildon council that the travellers could be moved 200 miles north to live in the Merseyside borough instead.
Councillor Barrie Grunewald, deputy leader of St Helens council, said:
“Basildon wrote to all local authorities asking if there was any spare capacity on traveller sites. We wrote back to them saying we had eight spare pitches, but this was clearly not an adequate solution.
“I’m surprised and annoyed to see St Helens keeps being used as a fig leaf for Basildon’s failure to make enough provision for its own residents. We are always ready to help, but they should stop bandying St Helens around as some sort of alternative destination and put their own house in order.”
Despite having the forethought to bring in expensive external spin doctors, Basildon council clearly has no effective plan to deal with the 400 travellers who will be evicted from Dale Farm, including many vulnerable adults and 100 children.
Despite a range of voices calling for a more pragmatic approach – including local Christian clergy – the council presses on with its ideological crusade. As Labour MEP for the East of England, Richard Howitt, today put it:
“The smoke above Dale Farm is the most visible sign of the failure of Basildon Council to seek a mediated solution.”
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• End of the road for Dale Farm? – Kevin Meagher, October 13th 2011
• Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers – Kevin Meagher, September 2nd 2011
• The ‘Dalits’ of Dale Farm have needs too – Kevin Meagher, September 1st 2011