Far-right protests draining police resources, figures reveal

Far right protests like the EDL demonstrations in Luton are draining police resources and costing the tax payers millions according to this article.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Far-right protests draining police resources, figures reveal” was written by Frances Perraudin North of England reporter, for The Guardian on Sunday 25th December 2016 18.00 UTC

South Yorkshire police have spent nearly £5m on policing far-right protests since the beginning of 2012, figures have shown.

Freedom of information requests by the Guardian have revealed that 99.5% of the force’s overall expenditure on protests from the beginning of 2012 to October this year went on policing demonstrations by far-right groups.

Between the start of 2012 and October 2016, the force spent £4,672,083 on policing demonstrations by the far right, with a single demonstration in Rotherham in September 2014 costing just over £1m. The figures provided by the force do not include salaries and planning costs, so the total figure is likely to be higher.

Of the police forces that responded to the Guardian’s request for information, South Yorkshire’s overall costs were by far the highest.

West Yorkshire police spent £1,055,732 between the start of 2014 and October 2016, compared with £2,907,955 by South Yorkshire. In the same period, West Midlands police spent £898,767.

The Metropolitan police said they did not routinely cost such events and Greater Manchester police said the information did not exist in an “easily retrievable format” in their database.

South Yorkshire’s biggest bill was run up on 13 September 2014, a month after the Jay report concluded that 1,400 children in Rotherham had been sexually exploited by groups of mostly Asian men over 16 years. Hundreds of far-right protesters descended on the town and the cost of policing was £1,010,343.

Rotherham experienced 14 demonstrations by the far right in the space of 14 months following the publication of the Jay report. In May 2015, Rotherham council commissioners and South Yorkshire police asked the Home Office for special powers to ban demonstrations by some far-right groups such as the EDL and Britain First, but the Home Office said the legal criteria for a ban had not been met.

South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, Alan Billings, said a case could be made for banning certain groups from demonstrating because of the community tensions they caused and the cost to the public purse.

“It’s very difficult to call for the banning of assemblies because, for all of us in politics, there will be times when we want to protest and be on the streets saying our piece,” he said. “It’s very hard for us to say that’s fine for us but not for somebody else but, with the far-right groups in Rotherham, I’d say a case could be made because they’re not just coming and saying their piece and going away.

“South Yorkshire police doesn’t just have to deal with the far-right marches, but with the reasons that there are far-right marches here, which are things like CSE [child sexual abuse] investigations.

An EDL demonstrator in Luton.
An EDL demonstrator in Luton. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

“We also had the Hillsborough inquests and we’ve had to put up the tab for that and now the civil claims will start against South Yorkshire police as a result of the Hillsborough verdicts and as a result of non-recent CSE in Rotherham … so our expenditure goes up exponentially as a consequence of all that. Into the midst come these far-right marches.”

Rotherham’s Labour MP, Sarah Champion, said the figures came as no surprise. “Rotherham has been subjected to repeated – almost monthly – demonstrations and this has led to locals feeling nervous and a notable drop in people shopping in town,” she said.

“We must, of course, respect the right to peacefully protest. However, this must be balanced against the needs of the local community. It is deeply concerning that these national demonstrations represent such a significant drain on South Yorkshire police’s budgets and are diverting resources away from local frontline policing and investigations.”

Champion said she had repeatedly raised these issues with the government, with a view to increasing available funding and taking action to limit the impact and frequency of marches, but the government had not taken meaningful action to address the problem.

Among the other police forces who responded to the Guardian’s request for information was Kent, with an expenditure of £751,954 on policing far-right protests since the beginning of 2014, Bedfordshire police (£529,777.97) and Sussex police (£463,192).

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