Police say pub raid ‘proportionate’ but councillor claims it has put back race relations ‘by a good country mile’
16:12 14 April 2014
A raid on a Wisbech pub looking for sexual exploitation, prostitution and drugs has been described as “proportionate” by police but condemned as putting race relations back “a good country mile” by a councillor.
A police spokesman said today: “A warrant was executed at The Angel on Thursday evening by a number of uniformed officers acting on information received about suspected sexual exploitation, prostitution and drugs offences.
“No arrests were made.”
The statement added: “We will continue to do all that we can to ensure that Wisbech is a safe place in which to live and socialise.”
Their actions, however, have been criticised by Wisbech town councillor Steve Tierney who said that “given what I know at the moment, I am extremely concerned about the heavy-handed behaviour of the police and the nature of this ‘operation’”.
Cllr Tierney said he had been in touch with Chief Inspector Robin Sissons, the local police commander, who “strongly denies that the people in the pub were dealt with differently because the owner and most of the customers were foreign. I very much hope he’s right.
“But I wonder if the police would really have tried the same operation in a pub full of English people? I can imagine them demanding the car keys of a Wisbech man so they can search his vehicle parked elsewhere.
“I can imagine them asking a young Wisbech lady: ‘Are you a prostitute?’ I can imagine them demanding the mobile phones of every innocent customer in, say, The Case or the old Muppet Inn (when it was the Muppet Inn.)
“I can only speculate as to the result of them searching a young lady from Wisbech, down to her underwear and beyond – and the consequent response of her family. I don’t think any of it would have ended well.
“Robin points out the good work the local police do on behalf of the Eastern European community and to foster good relations with them – and that is absolutely true. But I think this operation has set that work back a country mile.”
Chief Insp Sissons said the large number of uniformed officers involved – Cllr Tierney says there were at least two dozen- were “not dressed in riot gear but normal uniform. The large numbers involved was proportionate considering the overall size of the premises (including the numbers of rooms upstairs) and the unknown numbers of staff / customers that would be there.
“I can also confirm that two rooms were locked within the premises which needed to be searched and so the officers had no other option but to force entry. Due to the fact that nothing was found in these rooms then it is normal practice for the constabulary to make good any damage caused.
“I would therefore urge the owner to make contact with the constabulary so that we can progress his claim.”
Chief Insp Sissons said the warrant was obtained after police had gained “several independent pieces of intelligence stating that there were illegal practices taking place -sexual exploitation, prostitution and drugs.
“The constabulary makes every effort to ensure that these pieces of intelligence are verified and cross referenced so that we can be sure that there is some substance to the claims made. It is also important that we act on intelligence given to us so that the community knows that we are acting on their behalf. It is for this reason that this warrant was executed. On this occasion there wasn’t anything found.”
The chief inspector added: “The purpose of this warrant was not to upset the community or make them fear the police. Its purpose was to reassure the community that we will do all that we can to ensure that Wisbech is a safe place in which to live and socialise in.”
Cllr Tierney wrote on a blog that “Robin Sissons says he will question those involved to find out if there is any truth to the accusations of rudeness, aggression and heavy-handed behaviour, though he feels the police have ‘nothing to apologise for’ at this point. He also feels that for every person who is unhappy about these powers being used for this sort of raid, there would be others who would cheer about it.
“He accepts that nobody was arrested or charged and that nothing was found or seized other than the CCTV, but does point out that the CCTV is ‘still being reviewed.’ The CCTV, he says, will be returned once it has been reviewed.”
In an earlier blog Cllr Tierney said “every witness describes the police manner as “threatening, rude and one described it as terrifying. A young couple were sitting at a table with their child eating dinner and, at some point during this sorry debacle, the child began to cry and then wet himself. This is not an exaggeration, this is not drama, this is what happened.”
He said the police had used “vast resources to scare the living crap out of half-a-dozen people having a pint and a little kid eating his chicken bloody nuggets.
“They’ve smashed down a few doors, giving the fright of her life to an elderly lady who just wanted a nap after a hard day’s work, and they’ve damaged the reputation and trade of a successful business in a town which really needs all the successful businesses it can get.”