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Police in thrall to 'sandal-wearing liberals' over latest Dudley traveller camp, says council leader

A council leader has accused police of being in thrall to "hand-wringing, sandal-wearing liberals" after an unauthorised traveller camp was set up near a Dudley beauty spot.

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Travellers have set up an unauthorised encampment in Dudley

Patrick Harley said it was "one law for the travellers and another for the rest of society" after police told him the camp near Priory Park did not meet the threshold for intervention.

The group initially set up a camp near the tennis courts on the park, before moving onto the green space between Paganel Drive and Gervase Drive.

Dudley Council said bailiffs have been brought in to move the group on as quickly as possible as part of a "zero tolerance" policy towards unauthorised encampments.

The council's Conservative leader, Mr Harley, said: "Once again a group of travellers set up shop on a place where they are not supposed to be and the police decide it does not meet the threshold for them to intervene.

"They are basically creating different levels of crime, with the law being applied in a different way depending on what section of the community you belong to.

Council leader Councillor Patrick Harley

"It appears to be one law for the travellers and another for the rest of society. Everyone should be treated as equals.

"It is time these incursions were taken seriously by the law. At the moment there is a feeling that in these situations, the police are more supportive of the travellers than they are of residents.

"Sadly, it looks like these days that those who are having their voices heard are the hand-wringing, sandal-wearing liberals.

"Meanwhile the vast majority of law-abiding citizens look on in disgust."

Councillor Laura Taylor-Childs, cabinet member for housing and safer communities, said enforcement officers had descended on Priory Park within hours of the group's arrival.

She added: "Our officers have been working with bailiffs and will be moving them on as soon as possible. Dudley has a zero tolerance attitude towards unauthorised encampments and I would like to reassure residents that we are taking swift action to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”

Mr Harley fell foul of the council's standards committee last year for speaking out against a police chief's handling of an incursion at the Budden Road transit site in Coseley.

It came after Kim Madill, Dudley's police chief at the time, said the force had "demonstrated our care and compassion for difference" by allowing travellers to stay at the site for longer than the 28 days permitted.

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police, said: "We were made aware a small group had moved onto public land near Priory Park and we have been working closely with partners at the council to resolve the matter.

"Our officers visited the site and have been monitoring the situation. We have had no reports of anti-social behaviour or criminal offences.

"We are aware that council enforcement officers are in the process of serving a notice for the group to move on and we are offering support if required."

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