Police 'did not supply radios to badger cull operators'

Suzette Davenport Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said lessons had been learned over the policing of last year's cull

Gloucestershire Police refused a Home Office request to supply radios to operators during last year's pilot badger cull, it has emerged.

The information came to light during a meeting chaired by the county police and crime commissioner (PCC).

Chief Constable Suzette Davenport told the PCC during the discussion the policing of last year's cull had been "difficult" and "challenging".

The force's Operation Themis took place between September and December 2013.

Monday's scrutiny meeting was not directly open to the public, but it was streamed online for people to follow.

During the discussions, Assistant Chief Constable Richard Berry told PCC Martin Surl the government had approached the force about using Airwave radios, but it refused due to operational independence.

The radios used by the cull operators were purchased by the company carrying out the cull, Mr Berry said.

The revelation follows the conviction of David McIntosh, who crashed a van loaded with badger carcasses into a bus stop in Gloucester, when a radio he had been using to monitor police messages fell under his foot pedals.

During the meeting, it was also revealed 150 police stop and searches took place over 89 days, leading to seven arrests.

Ms Davenport said: "It's unprecedented in policing that we've had to police protest at night with people with firearms.

"That's never ever been done before in British policing, so we were setting new ground."

Ms Davenport said the force had learned lessons which would be used should the second year of the pilot cull go ahead this summer.

"It's been difficult for the communities of Gloucestershire, difficult for our staff, and difficult because of some of the allegations that have been made - about what we have done, should have done, could have done and didn't do.

"[It was] a challenging environment, challenging times. With the range of pressures on the constabulary, not least the budget cuts... there will be more challenges as we go forward this year."

Mr Surl said the cost of the operation had been £2.3m. He said he had been told the money would be paid back to the force by the Home Office by June.

A second year of culling is due to take place in Gloucestershire and Somerset later this year.

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