PCC Martin Surl calls for change in law on face covering in light of badger cull issues

6:00pm Tuesday 13th May 2014

A CALL for change in the law on face coverings has been made following claims that badger culling protestors wearing balaclavas ‘raised tensions’.

Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl has promised to write to the Home Secretary stating his support on a change in the law on face coverings.

It follows Monday’s webcast as the Commissioner questioned senior officers over how last year’s pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire was policed.

Officers said people on all sides - contractors carrying out the cull and those against it - who wore balaclavas had raised tensions and led to an atmosphere of intimidation.

The Commissioner was told the Police received many claims of harassment, and anti-social behaviour which they were unable to pursue because the alleged perpetrators could not be identified and the reluctance of witnesses to come forward.

Although Police have the power to make someone remove a face covering, it is a power they are more likely to use when quelling a riot.

Their tactic during the cull was to adopt a more measured approach and avoid provocation. “I received many complaints from families who had nothing to do with the cull who were frightened to leave their homes or go out after dark in case they were confronted by people whose faces were covered”, said Mr Surl.

“It was one of the nastier elements of the cull. The Police adopted a polite approach so as not to inflame the situation and it’s a pity those who were asked to take off their masks ignored not only the request but also the effect they were having on innocent people and communities.

“There are restrictions on people walking into a bank or filling station wearing a crash helmet, maybe there should be something similar in the countryside”.

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