York & North Yorkshire

Harrogate police 'slow to react' to Stray gathering

Litter on the Stray Image copyright Roger Hattam
Image caption The 200-acre park in Harrogate had been left strewn with litter after the mass gathering

A police chief has admitted officers were too slow to react when hundreds of teenagers gathered on Harrogate's Stray for an end-of-term lockdown party.

North Yorkshire Police's Det Supt Steve Thomas told councillors he was "really sorry" officers did not intervene earlier at the gathering on 20 June.

Alcohol bottles, litter and laughing gas canisters were left on the Stray, prompting complaints from residents.

"We didn't get it 100 per cent right", Mr Thomas told the councillors.

Image copyright Harrogate Borough Council
Image caption Large amounts of rubbish were collected from the area after the mass gathering

Speaking to the council's overview and scrutiny committee, he said: "I am really sorry that we weren't able to get to grips with it in time for it not to affect the people who reported it to us," the Local Democracy Reporting Service reports.

"I was working on the evening that it happened and, as soon as we were aware, we had deployed through the force control room additional resources.

"Unfortunately once you get a gathering of that size it is a question of trying to engage as best as possible.

"I am not saying we got that entirely right and we certainly learnt from it."

Pictures taken after the event showed the parkland strewn with laughing gas (nitrous oxide) canisters and balloons, which Mr Thomas warned had "significant health implications".

The images of rubbish also sparked anger from some residents who organised litter picks.

It also saw Harrogate Borough Council install more bins, double waste collections and deploy staff to tackle widespread waste which continued to appear throughout June's warm weather.

Councillor John Mann told the meeting he believed the gathering was made up of local students who had just finished their summer term.

Det Supt Steve Thomas added: "You're quite right, it was coinciding with when a number of the school children would have either finalised their GSCEs or their A-Levels."

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