Joint statement on the unauthorised encampment in Lightwater – from Surrey Police, Surrey PCC, Surrey Heath Borough Council, and the Windlesham Parish Council
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Surrey Police has this afternoon (27 April) served the members of the unauthorised encampment on Lightwater Recreation Ground with a Direction to Leave under Section 61 (S61) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
This decision has been made following a further review of the situation together with any linked reports of crime and anti-social behaviour that have been made to our contact centre since our last formal review that took place on Sunday (26 April).
The unauthorised encampment has been in place since Tuesday 21 April and Surrey Police and Surrey Heath Borough Council have been undertaking frequent visits to the encampment often multiple times a day. Following an escalation of reports of crime and antisocial behaviour, now totalling over 40, together with an increased impact to local businesses Surrey Police’s Critical Incident Manager determined that the requirements to be able to serve a S61 have now been met.
Superintendent Tom Budd said, “Due to the increase in reports of crime and antisocial behaviour that we have received from the public over the last 24 hours, we are able to now intervene on this civil matter using powers within the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. It’s important for the public to know that we can only respond to concerns that have been officially reported to us either online, via 101 or 999 if there is crime taking place right now, as these form the basis for our evidence-based decision-making. I appreciate the significant impact that this encampment has had on local residents and businesses, in what are challenging and frightening times with the ongoing pandemic in our communities.”
Sarah Walker, Clerk to Windlesham Parish Council said, “We have been fully aware of the frustrations and concerns of local residents and as landowners served the encampment with notice to leave on Friday 24 April as the commencement of civil proceedings. As this notice expired we continued to work with local residents to officially report anti-social behaviour and criminality associated with the encampment to help police build a position for their response. We are pleased that this situation is now being brought to a close.”
Acting Chief Executive Officer of Surrey Heath Borough Council Tim Pashen said, “Together with Surrey Police we have been taking this encampment very seriously – and understand the concerns of the local residents especially at this time of social distancing. We have been following government advice on encampments and provided toilets, water, and rubbish bags, as well as providing health and safety advice regarding the current pandemic. We will be restoring the recreation ground as soon as possible following the removal of the encampment so that the facility is safe for use by local residents.”
David Munro, Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said, “I can greatly appreciate the frustration and anger that has been caused by this unauthorised encampment, that has been heightened during a time when the vast majority of residents are making the necessary sacrifices to help keep our communities safe from Covid-19. I continue to stand by Surrey Police and am pleased that decisive joint action has now been taken to ensure that the residents of Lightwater can feel safe in their local spaces.”