Cromer violence: New report shines a light on police failures and suggests sweeping improvements
PUBLISHED: 08:24 25 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:29 25 October 2017
Norfolk’s police chief has pledged sweeping improvements following an investigation into the response to a weekend of violent disorder in Cromer which saw the town put on lockdown.
The review was prompted by widespread criticism of the Force for failing to police the outburst of crime over the August 18 weekend at the end of the town’s annual carnival.
A total of 37 crimes were reported, including shoplifting, theft and most serious of all, the rape of a teenage girl by two men.
The disorder has been blamed on a group of at least 50 travellers who occupied the Runton Road car park with more than 20 caravans after driving up from Lowestoft.
But the constabulary has now pledged to draw up an action plan aimed at ensuring future incidents would be handled better.
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Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “As I have said before, we got this wrong and I feel terribly sorry that the people of Cromer feel let down by our response.
“Moving forward, it is important that as an organisation we take any learning opportunities, put measures in place and make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“I have met with local councillors, business leaders and victims affected by the events of that August weekend, to explain the learning identified. We will continue to work with them to build and regain the communities’ confidence.”
The violence forced many Cromer businesses to shut early, costing tens of thousands of pounds in lost revenue on what is usually one of the busiest weekends of the year.
At the Wellington, around 20 travellers refused to leave after becoming rowdy and publican Nick Copeman described how they tried to pull him over the counter, demanding money.
And Jamil Ahmed, a waiter at Masala Twist Indian restaurant, told of how a group of around 40 people “ambushed the place” and began stealing alcohol and disturbing other customers.
MORE: ‘They started grabbing me to pull me over the bar’ - Cromer pub manager describes traveller disorder
Failures in four areas
The action plan, to be overseen by Mr Bailey and led by an assistant chief constable, will focus on four key areas where the Force’s response was found wanting:
-The flow of information and intelligence within the constabulary - The report found some Norfolk Police officers were told the travellers were heading into the county after causing trouble in Lowestoft, but this was not recorded or shared to an ‘appropriate level’.
-Leadership decisions - The constabulary responded to events as ‘part of normal business’, placing officers on the ground in an ‘impossible position’ where they lacked the resources to cope with the disorder.
-Media response - Police were wrong to describe the disorder as ‘low level’, and failed to recognise community tensions being expressed on social media.
-Protocols for dealing with unauthorised encampments - The review found certain travelling groups had ‘changed in nature’ and were becoming more common in Norfolk, and a further review of how unauthorised encampments were dealt with was needed.
Cumbria Constabulary is also conducting an independent review into the decisions of individual commanders.
“Proof of the pudding will be in the eating”
Lorne Green, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, said the review had been “comprehensive and extensive”.
Mr Green said: “I am satisfied the Force has examined all aspects of what happened over that August weekend and, specifically, what went wrong.
“What I would say however is that, as always, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
“I understand the people of Cromer and surrounding communities have been keen to hear the review’s findings, however I am sure they would agree with me that it was most important the review was thorough and exhaustive.”
MORE: Norfolk police chief says sorry for Cromer disorder and pledges to win back trust
Mr Green added: “I hope this review offers some reassurance to Cromer and the county at large and will help continue to strengthen confidence between our police force and those affected communities.”
Mr Bailey has also pledged to work more closely with the Cromer Carnival Committee to make sure they and the police would be better prepared should anything similar happen next year.
Police are continuing to investigate crimes reported over the weekend.
Two out of three men arrested in connection with the rape, in Cadogan Road, will remain on police bail until November 23.
A third man has been released under investigation while enquiries continue.
What happened when?
•A group of travellers arrive at Runton Road car park on Friday afternoon.
•The first call to police from a businesses about problems is thought to be around 4pm when a gift shop on Garden Street reports shoplifting.
•In total police said they were called to five incidents of theft, three from shops and two from local pubs where drinks were taken and not paid for.
•At 11.30pm police are called to Cromer Social Club to reports a large group are refusing to leave
•A teenage girl is allegedly raped at 11.30pm at a bus stop on Cadogan Road
•Throughout the day police receive reports of shoplifting and anti-social behaviour. An eviction notice is served on the travellers.
•Most pubs and restaurants close for the evening, but officers are called about 5pm to one pub and also to Masala Twist on Prince of Wales Road.
•Shortly after 8.50pm, officers are called to Seacroft caravan park.
What happened next?
The closure of many Cromer businesses during the weekend’s disorder in August cost tens of thousands of pounds, a local businessman estimated.
Former Cromer mayor Tim Adams described the events as “some of the most serious disruption we have ever had”.
The incident also drew widespread coverage from media around the UK.
Much of the criticism was directed at police for the manner in which they handled the matter.
A review into their response was subsequently launched, with Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner Lorne Green saying it needed to look at everything from the police’s preparation for the carnival weekend through to their response when things escalated.
A special meeting, called a Police Accountability Forum, was also held in the town where the public could ask questions.