THE NEW Police and Crime Commissioner has promised to crack down on travellers camping illegally on private land.

During one of his first interviews, hours after landing the £86,000-a-year job, Matthew Barber said he will be working with local authorities to find ‘transit sites’ where groups can be asked to move to, instead of setting up camp on private land.

He said: “You get a huge amount of prejudice with that community and if they choose to live a nomadic lifestyle, then that’s fine.”

He added that police haven’t had many powers to move people in vehicles off private land but the new police bill will see a huge shift in what they can and can’t do.

The 300-page bill has been controversial across the country with people marching to defend their right to protest.

As part of the new police powers, officers could have more authority to stop groups like Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion from protesting on the streets.

Mr Barber, who says he has personally protested, while a ‘youth’ at Brunel University, said that irrespective of party politics, he would ‘always defend the right to protest’.

He said the Thames Valley area – and particularly Oxford – had seen big protests including the campaign demanding the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue from Oriel College.

He said: “There, police had a presence to reassure the public, and police also had a reserve presence for if there was any trouble from that protest or a counter protest.

“In Thames Valley we have a really good record of using proportionate force.

“Some people are very excited about the bill and the example of the public nuisance carrying up to 10 years in prison. But under Common Law that is already punishable by a life sentence.

“Regardless of my party, I wouldn’t support a bill that stops protests. But this is simply addressing tactics.”

The 40-year-old father-of-two said he plans to be ‘more hands-on’ in the role than his predecessor Anthony Stansfeld, whose final day in the office is today before he retires.

He explained: “It’s not a criticism of Anthony, but I have always tried to make sure I meet officers on the ground and in ride-alongs.

“I get to see officers and I think that’s incredibly important. You get to know things that you wouldn’t get from a report, things to challenge senior officers about, and details of what is going on in the ground.” O

n getting more officers, Mr Barber said he planned to ‘keep lobbying’ the Government on funding and how the money is allocated.

He said: “You have a police budget of X million pounds and that’s divided up into the police forces using a formula created in the late 90s. That formula has been reviewed and tweaked but never redone. If it was simplified on population TVP would lose out hugely to northern forces on getting funding.”


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