Gatwick drone policing costs 'shocking'

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Sussex Police at the airportImage source, Eddie Mitchell
Image caption,
Sussex Police were called to Gatwick after sightings of drones were reported

Drone sightings that disrupted more than 1,000 flights to and from Gatwick Airport last December led to policing costs of £459,000, figures have shown.

Sussex Police said its total spend was £419,000, while Surrey Police spent £40,000 in overtime.

Crawley MP Henry Smith, who warned Parliament in 2017 drones could bring major disruption if steps were not taken, said the figure was "shocking".

The Home Office said it would consider any request from the force for help.

Conservative MP Mr Smith said: "Eighteen months before the Gatwick drone incident I warned in Parliament this might well bring major disruption.

"This is obviously at significant cost to the taxpayers, both locally in Sussex and Surrey, as well as nationally.

"I will be pursuing with the Home Office whether they are willing to pay or contribute towards these costs."

Spending by Sussex Police included £332,000 on overtime and bank holiday pay, £52,000 on basing police officers on the site, £12,000 on mutual aid from other forces in Cambridge and Essex, £14,000 on accommodation and subsistence, £4,000 on equipment and £5,000 on transport.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said she ensured the force had contingency funding for major incidents.

She said there were established protocols to recover policing costs as a result of national issues: "I will be working with the chief constable and seeking to recover from third parties some of the policing costs associated with the investigation into the drone incursions."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Special grant funding is usually available to police forces when they face significant or exceptional costs and where meeting these might threaten the financial stability of the force.

"All applications from police and crime commissioners are carefully considered."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Tens of thousands of people were hit by cancellations and delays

Last month, Sussex Police, the government and Gatwick Airport described the incident as a "sustained" drone attack.

About 140,000 passengers had their flights disrupted as over 100 drone sightings were reported over three days.

One government official described it as a "malicious attack", but Robert Garbett, from Drone Major Group, a company which advises airports on drone defence and security, said closing the airport was a "massive overreaction".

He said the issue was not about drones but "preparedness".

Image source, PA
Image caption,
About 1,000 flights were disrupted

After the disruption, Sussex Police arrested a drone enthusiast and his partner who lived near the airport, but they were released without charge.

The force said the criminal investigation continues.

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