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NFU and shooters 'shouted' at police over Somerset badger cull

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 28, 2014

By Tristan Cork

  • MP Kerry McCarthy, pictured inset, has pledged to write to Avon & Somerset's Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens over the complaint that representatives of the culling firm and the NFU were ordering police officers around in the force's command centre during the controversial pilot badger cull

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The police communications operative talking to officers trying to police the badger cull in Somerset had representatives from the NFU and the private culling firm "shouting across" him in the control room as he tried to do his job, a leaked report has revealed.

And the officer later complained of an "inappropriate" situation where the gunmen taking part in the cull were able to radio their own bosses – who were sitting in the same police control room – quicker than campaigners were able to call police.

That meant when a badger cull protester called 999 to claim he had been assaulted by a couple of cull marksmen, the marksmen were able to radio directly through to the police's own badger cull control room to make a counter-claim before the protester's report reached them.

protesters said last night the chaotic and "biased" policing of the badger cull and the night-time protests has been laid bare in a leaked inquiry report into a complaint against the police made by one protester. And now, West MP Kerry McCarthy has pledged to write to Avon & Somerset's Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens over the complaint, which the Western Daily Press reported yesterday, and the admissions and revelations made in the police investigation into what happened.

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The full report details just one incident that happened on one night, near the west Somerset village of Carhampton, during the badger cull in October last year.

Police investigating the complaint admitted that the presence of two men from the culling company, and a member of the NFU, in the badger cull police command centre "gave the impression" that the police were not impartial.

The report outlines how one protester, Christopher Tasker, called 999 alleging he had been assaulted by two cull operatives, who were searching for the body of a badger they had shot earlier in the night, at a remote spot down a farm track, and wrongly suspected Mr Tasker of taking it.

His call went through to the Avon & Somerset police's force service centre, and while it was being processed, the cull operatives were able to radio through to their firm's bosses – who were sitting in the police's specially set-up badger cull operations room.

They reported an altercation over a "stolen" badger carcass, and because it had been radioed directly through, no proper log was made of the report that could be checked later.

Because of the direct report from the cull operatives, the police officers sent to investigate did not initially treat Mr Tasker as the alleged victim, instead began searching his car for the stolen animal. The report outlines how the officers – who have since been "advised" over their actions that night – even searched inside Mr Tasker's hot drinks flask.

The report outlines how the officers attending found it difficult to work out "who to believe" and even to identify which side people were as it was, chaotic, very dark and both the cull operatives and the protesters were wearing camouflage gear.

In the subsequent police complaints investigation, the police communications operator voiced his concern over the presence of the cull firm and the NFU in his control room.

The report said: "(He) also added that in his opinion a record of the contractor's representatives conversations within the control room should have been established and although there was audible recording available in the room this was not switched on.

"In this and other incidents he was aware that the contractors would advise the communications dispatcher and/or Silver where a problem was – but in his opinion this felt as if the contractor and/or NFU representatives were actually directing the police.

"(He) also explained that it was not really appropriate for a single crewed dispatcher to have to listen to radio transmissions, undertake PNC checks on behalf of officers and check logs while at the same time be listening to the contractors, the NFU representative and the Silver commander all shouting across each other – sometimes with conflicting information which he then tried to process.

"As such he added that it was no wonder that it appeared that some information did not appear on the communication log for the incident at Carhampton or that he had typed information on to a wrong log," he told the investigating officer.

The report later explained the effect of having two cull contractor representatives in the control room.

"It is evident from the associated communications log and audio transmissions that a report was received within the dedicated control room from a cull contractor that they had recently been assaulted," it said.

"It is established that this report came via the contractors own security communications system operated and controlled independently from the police communications network.

"However, this report was received by a representative of the contractors positioned within the Silver control room sitting a few feet away from the 'single crewed' communications dispatcher.

"As such this report bypassed the force service centre – where if received would have generated a communications log.

"As such no log was opened. This was hardly ideal but was clearly a consequence of the contractor's communication point being within the police cull control room.

"It should be acknowledged that the positioning of such a 'rep' in the control room was primarily done to facilitate the safety of the cull operation and the badger supporters by the police having the immediate knowledge and ability to redirect or remove contractors from areas where badger supporters were known to be present.

"The mixture of high powered rifles, emotion and darkness were matters requiring careful and deliberate policing.

"However it is also acknowledged that the positioning of the security rep within the police control room did quite understandably give the impression that the police were simply supporting the cull operators at the expense of a freedom to protest by the various badger support groups.

"Although this argument has some merit it must not be forgotten that the cull was an operation being conducted by Defra and as such the police were not in a position to simply remain passive.

"Rather, they sought to allow peaceful and legitimate protest and observation by the badger supporters while at the same time seeking to create an environment where the cull operators could carry out their prescribed activities without harassment or in placing themselves or others in danger by the very nature of the work they were undertaking.

"Indeed a difficult but not unique position for the police service to find itself in," the report's author said, adding that the apparent "directing" of police operations by one side of the badger cull argument was "of concern".

"The account in that he was directed to deploy officers at the request of the contractors rep is of concern and should not have been the case, although the reality would no doubt have been that Chief Inspector Ellis, present at that time would have been aware, sanctioned and probably 'confirmed' such deployments," the controversial report went on to say.

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  • dianebartlet  |  May 29 2014, 1:38AM

    Absolutely disgusting, our Police should be ashamed, the public do not pay for the police to be directed by the NFU and their dodgy assault of healthy Badgers. I'm totally losing all respect for the Police, this kind of thing is happening all too often.......Hillsborough, Fracking??? To name just two! This country is getting more like China everyday and it stinks!

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