Chief Constable calls for end to protests by extremist groups

SOUTH Yorkshire Chief Constable David Crompton has called for an end to protests which have cost his force £4m over the last three years.

David Crompton

He said funds and resources to protect victims of crime are being absorbed by the constant demand to police protests.

South Yorkshire businesses are also concerned about the impact of repeated protests, particularly in Rotherham, where there have been 14.

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The police chief is now taking legal advice to look for ways to ban further protests.

There have been 20 protests in South Yorkshire over recent years, with the majority in Rotherham organised by far-right groups over the child sexual exploitation scandal which has rocked the town.

A report suggested that 1,400 children in Rotherham had been abused by men of largely Pakistani heritage over a 16 year period while those in authority turned a blind eye.

Groups including the English Defence League and Britain First have marched through the town in protest, with counter demonstrations, often involving Unite Against Fascism, generally held on the same days.

For most protests police chiefs have been forced to draft in extra police officers to boost numbers on the streets, including reinforcements from neighbouring forces.

Chief Constable David Crompton said: “Since October 2012 we have policed 20 protests in South Yorkshire, 14 of which have focused on Rotherham.

“Whilst we respect all individual’s right to protest we must balance this against local people’s right to enjoy their town centre, the businesses’ right to trade and the need to fund wider policing.

“I’m now seeking specialist legal advice to explore all our options around these protests. We are facing a situation the legislation what not designed to address.

“Many of these protests focus on a call for police to do more to tackle child sexual exploitation but their constant desire to protest is not helping us to achieve this.

“Furthermore, we have 151 live investigations underway into child sexual exploitation, many of which are working their way through the criminal justice system. Eight people from Rotherham were at Sheffield Crown Court earlier this week.

“I understand the concerns raised by many of the protestors which is why I commissioned the National Crime Agency to investigate past abuse and why we have referred allegations against police officers to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

“We’ve also injected extra funds into our public protection units which, in the last 12 months, has led to 54 people being charged for child sexual exploitation related offences.

“The £4 million does not include the subsequent criminal investigations which often follow.

“This weekend’s protest resulted in disorder on Wellgate, which is now being investigated by nine full time officers in a bid to identify and bring to justice those responsible.”

“I have to ask the question of protestors what it is they are calling for, and whether stripping police resources from South Yorkshire will help achieve it.”

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, added: “No one wants to interfere with the right to demonstrate, but when people who mainly come from outside South Yorkshire continue to come here it looks increasingly cynical and hypocritical on their part.

“This is one part of the country where child sexual exploitation is well understood and is being tackled.

“The police have acknowledged past mistakes, have learnt from them and are determined to do the right thing by those who were previously let down.

“They are moving now to bring perpetrators to justice.

“Every protest diverts funds which could be better used not least in supporting more work in protecting vulnerable people.

“I have never yet had a victim or survivor of child sexual exploitation or their families ask for this kind of outside intervention. On the contrary, those who I meet on the panel of survivors and their families are working with the police and do not welcome these distractions.”