The Labour Party is challenging the Avon and Somerset Police Commissioner over the involvement of the National Farmers Union in the policing of the badger cull in West Somerset. A police report says a representative of the NFU was in the police control room while badgers were being shot. Also there were representatives of the firm carrying out the cull, HNV Associates.
The revelation came in the police response to a complaint by an anti-cull activist whose car was searched. It has shocked people who took part in peaceful patrols during the cull.
The Labour Party has written to Police Commissioner Sue Mountstevens with a series of questions. We want to know:
1/ At what level in Avon and Somerset Police was the decision taken to have representatives of the NFU in the control room ?
2/ What purpose was it supposed these representatives would serve?
3/ Was any duty of confidentiality placed on these representatives ?
4/ Did these representatives have access to information about people arrested during the cull?
5/ To your knowledge, did the NFU representatives who went into the control room pass on information about the police operation to the union’s wider membership?
6/ Were the representatives of HNC Associates able to communicate from the police control room with their staff on the ground.?
7/ Will you be reviewing your force’s policy on the presence of outsiders in control rooms during sensitive police operations?
‘Heavy Police Presence’
Andy Lewis of West Somerset Labour Party joined opponents of the cull in a patrol last year. He said: “There was a heavy police presence, but the police tried to give the impression of being even-handed. It is truly shocking to learn that we were being watched from the police control room by the NFU. It has also been said by a police communications officer that the NFU and HNC Associates were “directing” the operation.
“We hope Sue Mountstevens will answer our questions and will tell us that the National Farmers Union and other outside organisations will not be involved in future police operations.”
Cllr Mick Lerry said: “ It is important for Sue Mountstevens to answer the questions posed by the Labour Party, we cannot have secrecy around and issue of public interest, and she must be absolutely clear about the involvement of the National Farmers Union”.
Andy Lewis : 07974 030753