A LEWES trader claims she was “ambushed” in an “outrageously misconceived” police operation on Saturday.
Ella Clarke said that at 5pm six police officers arrived in Cliffe High Street to hand out £30 fixed penalty fines to those drivers entering the Cliffe unable to demonstrate a need to load or unload.
As it was closing time, she said, the majority of drivers were shopkeepers returning to their premises to collect staff, takings and customer deliveries, having retrieved their cars from their parking spaces. “Obviously, this provided rich pickings for our upholders of the law,” said Miss Clarke.
She said that at 5.40pm two officers, stationed on the Cliffe Bridge, authorised her husband to go through their road block to collect her from her shop, Louis Potts Ltd.
“Once safely in my car, a second pair of officers stopped us and we were handed a £30 fixed penalty, on the grounds that I had not been seen loading any actual boxes, but had merely got into my car, laden with takings, laptop and briefcase,” she said.
“The two officers were adamant that the fact that I was a lone woman, carrying an expensive laptop and the cash takings, was not sufficient to demonstrate a need to load, and having issued their final ticket, called their other four colleagues, jumped back into their van, and sped off.
“This outrageously misconceived operation was quite clearly a planned entrapment by the first two officers, followed by a classic ambush by the second pair.
“I have spoken to Sussex Police, who have defended their actions on the grounds that the Cliffe scheme covers 24 hours, that they were not targeting shopkeepers and that the timing of their six o’clock raid was coincidental.
“The strange thing is, The Cliffe Traders’ Association spent many months planning the pedestrian priority scheme with East Sussex County Council, and have, for some years now, happily assumed that enforcement finished at 5pm. I have asked the county council for clarification.”
Miss Clarke added: “Whatever the fine print shows, it is very clear that this squad of six officers were possibly not only exceeding their authority by bullying innocent shopkeepers, but were also guilty of a serious misuse of valuable police time by engaging in such crass overkill.”
Inspector Stephen Tullett said: “Following complaints from shopkeepers and residents in the Cliffe about continued breaches of the control order in Cliffe High Street we ran an operation on Saturday to reinforce the restrictions.
“Two officers were at the start of the zone to advise drivers of the restrictions and a number turned back. Two further officers were at the end of the zone and issued four fixed penalty notices to drivers who, despite the warnings, still chose to breach the restrictions.
“I understand the sensitivities surrounding vehicle access to the Cliffe, but this is a busy area, particularly on a Saturday and both shopkeepers and residents are rightly concerned for the safety of pedestrians who expect the minimum of traffic flow.
“There is an appeals procedure and anyone who receives a penalty may challenge it.”