David Sapsted, Telegraph (London), Mar. 31
A police force has spent £10,000 on CDs informing travellers of legal action they can take if they are the victims of harassment or discrimination.
The move has astonished householders who complain they are the ones suffering harassment at the hands of travellers who are setting up illegal camps in the countryside.
“It’s a great shame that the authorities won’t put the same sort of effort into protecting our rights,” said one farmer who fought an expensive legal battle to get travellers off his land.
“We are the ones whose lives are being ruined by the illegal camps, anti-social behaviour, intimidation and criminality.”
The 2,000 CDs are being distributed free to families in the Fenland area of Cambridgeshire, which has the country’s largest concentration of travellers. Another 500 CDs are being sent to local police officers to ensure they are aware of the travellers’ rights.
Called Del Gavvers Pukker Cheerus’ — a Romany phrase meaning “give the police a chance” — the CD has been funded by the Home Office and is designed to encourage travellers to report incidents of discrimination. Other police forces are now showing an interest in distributing copies.
Sgt Vic Galpin, hate crime manager of Cambridgeshire police, said: “People see a lot of negative publicity about travellers and very little about their plight.
“We spoke to young gipsies and travellers across Cambridgeshire and 68 per cent had suffered some form of racist discrimination in the recent past but none said they would go to the police because they thought they would side against them.
“We are trying to address this and break down some barriers.”
Jake Bowers, a Romany journalist, narrates the CD, which includes an interview with Chief Supt Simon Edens, commander of Cambridgeshire’s central division, which includes Fenland.
Interviews with travellers, recounting the “racism” they have suffered, are also included on the disc.
It was decided to use a compact disc, rather than a leaflet, to make the message more accessible and to overcome any literacy problems.
David Bailey, traveller and diversity manager at Fenland district council, which is helping to distribute the CDs, said: “We have found that people in other minority groups, such as the lesbian, bisexual and gay community, are much more confident in making complaints to the police if they fall victim to hate crime.
“Unfortunately, travellers don’t have the same confidence.”
Terry Brownbill, a spokesman for the residents’ association in Cottenham — where locals complain that their lives have been made a misery since the arrival of hundreds of travellers on an illegal camp at nearby Smithy Fen in 2003 — remained unimpressed by the scheme.
“It’s a bit rich that the scheme is being launched and they are spending money on the travelling community, when the settled community has been so discriminated against by the police and local authority for the last two years,” he said.