Cumbria

Complaints of police 'harassment' at Appleby fair

Gypsies and travellers have complained about heavy handed treatment by police at Cumbria's annual Appleby Horse Fair.

Thousands of visitors, many with horses and carts, arrived in the town for the start of the seven-day event on 3 June.

Billy Welch, spokesman for the travelling community, said police had treated them abusively and had unnecessarily closed some local pubs.

The Cumbria force said the event's policing had been "fair and proportionate".

Gypsies and travellers from all over the world visit the Appleby fair to socialise and trade.

First held in 1685, it features traditional activities including cart racing and horse trading.

Police monitor the event closely as people living nearby often complain of an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour.

However, gypsy spokesman Mr Welch said this year officers had exercised "seriously bad judgement".

He said: "It's terrible the way we've been treated - we just can't understand it. We're in shock.

"They were shutting down pubs without any excuse at all. One pub was shut down because there was horse dealing going on.

"Well it's a horse fair, that's what we do at the pubs, horse deal."

Assistant chief constable Jerry Graham said the policing operation was about balancing the needs of the gypsy and traveller visitors with the needs of local communities.

"The number of arrests are down compared to last year, along with the numbers of weapons seized - making it a safer, more enjoyable event for everyone," he said.

"The vast majority of arrests that have been made to date have been for public order offences and for offences such as disqualified driving and drug possession. These are issues that the public would expect us to deal with robustly.

"Regular police patrols have been ongoing throughout the fair as usual, and officers have struck up good relationships with visitors in the area."

He added: "We are aware that there is an ongoing issue for visitors around the lack of places to drink in Appleby.

"However the responsibility for the opening hours of licenced premises lies firmly with the licencees themselves. At no time have police instructed the premises to close."

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