“Enforcement take as last resort” says Chief Constable on protests

Jo Shiner Chief Constable of Sussex

During her monthly Performance & Accountability Meeting with Chief Constable Jo Shiner today, Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner discussed the policing of the vigils/protests which have been held in Sussex over the last week following the harrowing news of Sarah Everard’s death.

Ms Bourne posed questions about how complaints from the public are being addressed and the Chief Constable was able to give her, and residents who tuned in to watch the live stream, a detailed explanation of the policing approach taken.

She said: “It is important to remember that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and the police have a job to do to help reduce the risk of the spread of this virus.

Kay Bourne PCC Sussex
Kay Bourne Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner asks a question

Officers took no action until two metre rule broken

“Officers took no action as people came to peacefully pay their respects, even when they gathered to do so. However, once the two-metre guidance was broken and the crowds began to be offensive towards our officers, enforcement was taken as a last resort where engagement and encouragement did not work.

“I do believe that any action taken was proportionate and fair. Out of the six protests which have occurred in Sussex, we’ve only made two arrests.

Public order policing “challenging”

“However, public order policing is challenging and getting the right balance is not easy. Our policing approach has been consistent throughout the pandemic but I can completely understand public perception at this time and we will listen and try to better understand any concerns. We continue to learn from everything we do in policing and I have conducted an internal review.”

I was reassured to hear that the majority of people who attended the vigils adhered to the social distancing and gathering rules which have helped drive Covid levels down.

Over the last year my office has funded £3.4million to 42 different organisations across our county to make sure that specialist support is available for women and girls who are the victims of violence or abuse of any kind.

Planning for night-time reopening

Sussex Police are also committed to ensuring they work with our communities to build the confidence of women or anyone else who feels unsafe to come forward and report. They are already planning for the potential impact of the reopening of the night-time economy.

Nobody should feel unsafe on our streets. Positive action will continue to be taken to prevent violence, safeguard victims and address perpetrators’ behaviours.

You can watch the discussion with the Chief Constable on this topic and others, here.

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