A leading police chief has issued a warning that hate crime against the gypsy and travelling community will not be tolerated.
Mr Keith Hunter said: “When travellers do visit the area we are faced with the same issues year after year of some unauthorised encampments, with local residents and others reacting to both the encampments themselves and making online comments on the media reports which often accompany such activity.
“Of course there are sometimes issues with unauthorised encampments and the impact on local communities. Any issues that do exist or develop need to be addressed in a measured, proportionate and legal way and should be taken in balance with the lack of provision of provided stopover sites by local authorities, which is a requirement.
“The law provides the routes through which these issues should be addressed and although the police constitute a part of the solution in certain circumstances, they are not able to offer a solution to the question of how our settled communities interact with this section of our society who follow their own traditional and cultural way of life. It is a mark of a civilised society as to how it deals with people who live within it, perhaps with a way of life out of the norm, which may provide challenges to agencies and communities.
“What is never acceptable is the attitude expressed openly by some that gypsies and travellers are simply ‘a problem to be dealt with’. Such attitudes expressed by otherwise seemingly reasonable people breed an acceptance of intolerance which can lead to threatening words and behaviour by those with a propensity to such language and behaviour. When that occurs and remains unchallenged, history shows us we are on a
very dangerous path. As Police and Crime Commissioner I will not allow it to go unchallenged, that includes
threatening comments made by the public on the websites and Facebook pages of media outlets and all other forms of social media.”
Mr Hunter added: “I will ensure that the force makes every effort to identify and prosecute people who post hateful comments that are intended or likely to provoke racial hatred or violence against any group. Make no mistake, people who make these comments are committing a hate crime and tolerance of any form of hate crime will not be a feature of my term as Police and Crime Commissioner.”