‘Stay away’ call as EDL plan Sheffield demonstration

The EDL protest in Rotherham
The EDL protest in Rotherham
  • Controversial group plans demonstration in city
  • Latest protest over new Sheffield child abuse claims
  • Police commissioner says march will not help victims and urges EDL to ‘stay away’
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Members of the English Defence League are planning a demonstration in Sheffield - leading police commissioner Alan Billings to call for them to ‘stay away’.

The EDL are provisionally planning a march in the city in July in protest at new allegations that South Yorkshire Police failed to act on hundreds of child sexual exploitation cases in the city between 2007 and 2010.

More than 160 people have said they are planning to attend the demonstration on an EDL Facebook page.

It follows a series of demonstrations by the group in neighbouring Rotherham in the past few months in relation to the town’s grooming scandal.

South Yorkshire police commissioner Dr Alan Billings has said it costs the force around £500,000 to control each individual EDL demonstration.

Dr Billings said: “Another march in South Yorkshire by the EDL is unwelcome and unhelpful.

“The matter of child sexual exploitation is well understood in South Yorkshire, indeed it is probably better understood here now than in many other parts of the country where they are only just beginning to face hard truths about their own past.

“Everyone has a right to demonstrate and the police will ensure that marches are policed safely.

“But every EDL intervention potentially diverts substantial resources from other police work.

“If the EDL seriously want to help the victims and survivors of child abuse they should listen to them, as I do, and do the compassionate thing and stay away.

“Anything else is just mischief-making.”

Traders in Rotherham set up a petition calling for more powers to stop the marches visiting the centre of the town and affecting their businesses.

Earlier this month, police used new tactics to bar a group called the South East Alliance from Rotherham as campaigners visited the town to hold a protest.

The force made six arrests, turned away 12 cars and issued 52 dispersal notices.

South Yorkshire Police said it could ‘reasonably assume’ that the group was ‘intent on causing disorder or violence’ and used powers under breach of the peace to effectively bar the protesters from the town.

The force said that group of campaigners had not consulted with them about their plans for the protest, contributing to the tactics used to stop any demonstration taking place.

Dr Billings has highlighted the cost of dealing with EDL marches in his new police and crime plan.

He said Government funding cuts were putting the force in a ‘challenging position’, particularly given its unique costs such as the ongoing Hillsborough inquests.

In his new police and crime plan, he said: “South Yorkshire face potential costs that other police forces do not. I am legally obliged, for example, to fund the costs of some of those police officers involved in the Hillsborough Inquests.

“If the Government is unwilling to give a special grant for this, the burden on South Yorkshire Police will be considerable.

“Similarly, each time the English Defence League demonstrate, the bill for South Yorkshire Police is in the region of £0.5m.”

Dr Billings added the cost of investigating a growing number child sexual exploitation cases is also a high one for the force.

It follows the publication of the Jay report in August, which found at least 1,400 children in Rotherham had been abused over 16 years, with police treating victims with ‘contempt’.

Dr Billings said: “In South Yorkshire, following the publication of Professor Alexis Jay’s report, the number of referrals in relation to child sexual exploitation has increased, along with the number of sexual offences.

“These crime types, by their very nature, are complex to investigate and must be adequately resourced.”

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