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Gloucestershire Police refused to supply marksmen with police radios during badger cull 2013

By Michael_Yong  |  Posted: May 13, 2014

By Michael Yong

PCC Martin Surl with chief constable Suzette Davenport

PCC Martin Surl with chief constable Suzette Davenport

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The Government approached Gloucestershire Police to ask them to provide radios to marksmen during the badger cull, it was revealed tonight.

Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl questioned senior police officers from Gloucestershire Constabulary about the way they handled incidents during Operation Themis, the police’s response to the cull.

Chief constable (CC) Suzette Davenport, together with Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Richard Berry, Superintendent (SI) Jim McCarthy, Inspector Mark Ravenscroft and Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Steve Bean were questioned about incidents and various complaints throughout the weeks of the cull.

The officers were quizzed about the cull, which cost the constabulary some £2.3 million.

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The final amount was many times above the original cost anticipated by the force, although the money would be reimbursed by the Government by June, according to Mr Surl.

CC Davenport said the original amount was announced months before the actual cull, and the extension had cost the police more as well.

In total, officers worked 89 days on full-time operations, it was revealed tonight, with many having to give up rest days and working overtime.

During the planned eight-week extension, police officers were essentially on 24-hour patrols. Free shooting and cage trapping meant they had to prevent damage to traps while keeping the peace in the countryside, putting a huge strain on resources.

She added: “We have taken about 18 months to two years to plan for the six weeks cull, and there were various issues to take care of.

“We planned for six weeks and the when the cull was extended, the costs increased as well.”

Mr Surl, who had previously spoken out against the Government’s plan for an extension, said it interfered with the police’s daily work.

ACC Berry, the gold commander, told the chamber it had been “one of the largest deployment” of police officers ever.

It was also revealed there were 150 stop and searches during the cull period, something which Mr Surl said caused “quite a lot of dissatisfaction”, especially with people stopped more than twice on the same night.

He said it was “unacceptable” that officers could not communicate with each other through their radios when it came to the stopping suspects.

But SI McCarthy said because people were moving about, it was difficult to track who had been stopped previously.

He added: “In terms of the numbers of stop and searches, 150 over 89 days is actually a very small amount, proportionately.

“When that [cage trapping] started, we saw a vast increase in offences, damages to cages and thefts.

“About 320 cages were damaged, and 120 stolen during that time. I can imagine the amount of pressure for the people responsible for those cages.”

Mr Surl also raised the issue of former star of TV show Gladiators David McIntosh, who had crashed a van full of dead badgers into a bus shelter in Gloucester city centre on September 29, around 12.50am.

McIntosh, 28, told police he was distracted when he dropped a radio he was using to keep tabs on protesters who were shadowing the trial cull, Stroud Magistrates Court had heard.

He was fined £91 with a £20 victim surcharge, told to pay £30 costs and his licence was endorsed with six penalty points.

But police officers tonight categorically denied any contact with McIntosh about the cull, or about location of protesters.

SI McCarthy told the chamber McIntosh had been collecting dead badgers from cull operators that night the van crashed, although they could not explain why he was in the centre of Gloucester.

ACC Berry denied police were offering protesters’ locations because they wanted to maintain operation independence.

He added the Home Office and Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) had approached Gloucestershire Police last July to ask them to supply operators with radios linked to the police’s.

The answer was a firm ‘no’, again because they could not be seen to take sides.

DCI Bean said it was “incorrect” that McIntosh was in touch with the police, but was instead in radio contact with the cull operation headquarters.

Mr Surl said the extension and cull must have placed a huge strain on police officers. CC Davenport said although there was no increase in crime, it had become taxing for her officers.

“Ideally what some these people wanted was for us to intervene, but sometimes it was not a criminal situation,” she said.

“In terms of the impact on the people, there was certainly an impact, during the impact, on my staff.

“After the cull was extended, officers had to work rest days and over time, and they became tired. Not just from working those hours, but also from the angst and aggravation of these events.”

ACC Berry said they were “surprised” when they were told on October 23 the cull would be extended another eight weeks, longer than the original window.

It would have taken it well into winter. There were five briefings each day for officers taking part in the patrols, which lasted all day and night.

Free shooting and cage trapping put weighed down the officers, according to SI McCarthy, because they had to keep protesters safe while ensuring operators’ traps were not sabotaged.

Protesters had accused officers of being heavy handed and working with the National Farmers Union (NFU) on their injunction limiting protests in the countryside.

But all the officers denied this, with ACC Berry insisting the police had no involvement in developing the injunction, and had heard about it only on August 22, days before it came out in the media.

Mr Surl accused the NFU and Defra of giving people “false hope” that the cull was going as planned.

He added that there were lessons to be learned from this year’s cull as officers prepare for this year’s operation.

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16 comments

  • Jake_Blake  |  May 15 2014, 11:31AM

    @Clued-Up, There is plenty of scope within the law as it stands to close footpaths on a temporary basis.

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  • mmjames  |  May 14 2014, 3:21PM

    Thankyou for replying Diane. I wish I was still in 'busy life' mode instead of attempting to educate wrt zTuberculosis. If cattle or any other mammal for that matter, in a particular area is found to have been in contact with zTB or have full blown disease then you can be sure that areas badgers will be in the same boat.. There seems to be some misconception that if lesions can't be seen then badgers don't have zTB and can't pass the bacteria on elsewhere – a full post mortem is required for this. The Welsh Vet, Ms Glossop, has already stated that it is too early in the Welsh vaccination programme for any effects to be noticed in the cattle population. Until a new vaccine is produced, cattle, nor any other mammal, including humans will be protected by BCG vaccine. Some protection is afforded when the mammal is vaccinated at an extremely young age.... later on waste of time and resources. As for biosecurity, do you know what [good] Welsh farmers are doing better than [good] English ones? Perhaps the best answer is to incarcerate cattle 24/7/365 – but what about, deer, goats, pigs, wild boar, sheep, camelids? Even with NO local cattle these animals are succumbing to zTuberculosis – wonder where it could possibly be coming from? - might get an answer from the rest of the world!

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  • dianebartlet  |  May 14 2014, 12:29AM

    Mmjames, sorry for the delay but I have a busy life, I wish I could spend as much time on here as you do. The Welsh have tightened up cattle movement and worked on biosecurity too, as you obviously aren't aware or you wouldn't be asking me, they also are vaccinating Badgers, it too early to know what effect that may have as very few Badgers are diseased to the extent of transmitting the disease. I live in very rural countryside and have seen and reported farmers who's calves have been knee high in slurry with no where to lie down, sheep dead and just left to rot, cattle on tight lanes at night, open ceespits with no fencing. I have spoken to good farmers that have told me some of the ways round testing and cattle movement, this was covered by the excellent programme Inside Out but can also be seen on YouTube. It's obvious to me that the Welsh have realise that bending the rules just doesn't work and shows farmers in a bad light. It a shame that the NFU are failing their members when they should really be pushing for cattle vaccination trials. 63 Milion pounds of tax Payers money has been spent to date on science research and culling, this money could have been spent on vaccinating trials. I'm just so sorry that farmers can't stand up to the NFU and demand this.

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  • Clued-Up  |  May 13 2014, 10:20PM

    @Jake_Blake The laws of England don't allow what you suggest (thank goodness!). It's also improbable you'd find many people prepared to support the changes you want.

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  • Jake_Blake  |  May 13 2014, 9:45PM

    "About 320 cages were damaged, and 120 stolen during that time. I can imagine the amount of pressure for the people responsible for those cages." If people can't behave and protest within the law then the protest should simply not be allowed to take place in said location. They have had numerous protests (all be it tiny) all over the country and much more cheaply. There is simply no reason and nor is it acceptable to allow freedom of speech to impede on the rights of others. The costs of the Police babysitting the protests are too high and should therefore be moved to another location, the footpaths should be curfewed before anyone thinks about taking this on further.

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  • mmjames  |  May 13 2014, 2:28PM

    I'm sure Diane is capable of speaking for herself, or does she like you just pick up the propaganda and spread that around with NO understanding?

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  • Clued-Up  |  May 13 2014, 12:43PM

    @mmjames Instead of asking Diane why don't YOU look into what Wales has done that's different to England? The Welsh programme is a comprehensive one, much better than England's, and it has political will behind it. You've no grounds for believing Welsh or Scots farmers are any less law-abiding than their English counterparts so please don't suggest it.

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  • mmjames  |  May 13 2014, 11:45AM

    dianebartlet | May 13 2014, 12:18AM 1. Please list what the Welsh have done wrt "cattle practices" that isn't done in the SW of England. 2. Believe you me Scotland would take matters into its own hands if it had an infected badger population, just as it went overboard during 2001 F&M

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  • BenefitsRUs1  |  May 13 2014, 10:12AM

    This article is just another excuse for the middle class eco warriors to have a whinge...change the record please.

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  • dianebartlet  |  May 13 2014, 12:18AM

    It has been said that the Badger Cull in just a carrot to keep the NFU happy, I can't believe all what I'm hearing, such a huge waste of tax payers money. I totally disagree with the numbers of stop and search, I'm a mum of 55, never done anything like this before but killing healthy badger is disgusting and the Police should be ashamed that they had involvement, there's times you should just stand up and say NO! In just one night our vehicle was stop and searched 6 times so I fail to believe the figures given were correct. I shall be there again this year because Badgers are being used to satisfy the greed of the NFU who have failed farmers and our country with their sickening lies and refusal to tighten farming practices as have the Welsh. The Welsh have reduced bTB by 48% with tightening cattle practices alone plus starting vaccinating Badgers. It's no wonder Scotland are going it alone, who wants to be a member of a country that are such callous lying individuals. I'm ashamed to be British!

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