Sewage questions to MP prompt police home visits

When I was first contacted with this story, my source asked me to listen and tell her whether I thought this story was at all weird. My immediate response on hearing what happened was “Bloody hell!”. I think that reaction will be shared by many readers and my comments on this incident are at the end of the piece.

Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset. Official portrait

Press release issued by Fran Swan and Beverley Glock:

Two women who raised questions about sewage pollution with West Dorset MP Chris Loder have had police visits to their homes.

Fran Swan, of Fishpond, and Beverley Glock, of Lyme Regis, had registered for a public meeting for Chideock residents which was held on Friday November 25. They had to give their questions in advance in which both raised their concerns about sewage pollution.

Mr Loder contacted them by email to say the meeting was specifically for Chideock residents but, “let me know which villager has invited you and I will come back to you to see what we can do”.

Then on the evening of November 24, Fran Swan received an after dark visit from a Lyme Regis police constable.  The police officer said they had received an email from Mr Loder’s office and that she had been directed to find out Ms Swan’s intentions in wishing to attend the meeting.

Ms Swan said:

“This was alarming as the visit took place in the evening – we live in a remote location and we were concerned to see torchlight outside, and surprised to find a police officer on the doorstep. My application to attend the meeting was above board and obviously I had to put my address down.   I received an email directly from Chris Loder and responded to that. This indicated I was not just going to turn up if I wasn’t given an invitation. There was absolutely no reason for the police to visit – it appeared to me that this was an attempt to intimidate, even though the officer was very polite about it.”

The officer said she had already visited Beverley Glock, who was out for dinner at the time.

Ms Swan has since written to Mr Loder to ask why he involved the police:

 “My actions in applying for a place to attend the meeting and giving forward notice of the question that I would have wanted to ask are wholly appropriate for any constituent. I can see no possible legitimate reason that my approach should have initiated the response that it did, either from you and/or your office, or from the police”. 

Ms Glock and Ms Swan are involved in the Bluetits swimming group and the River Lim Action group, both of which campaign to clean up the River Lim and the beaches in the town. The Bluetits had previously asked to meet Mr Loder but he had failed to appear at two organised meetings, giving as reasons that his computer had a flat battery, and then, that an urgent meeting intervened on the date he had suggested.

“This is a legitimate cause of public concern”, said Ms Glock. “We are desperately worried about the quality of our swimming water and urgently need it to get back on track as we have thousands of people swimming all year round. We would expect Mr Loder to be 100 per cent behind that and not sending the police round to people who ask questions about it”.

Neither attended the meeting when they were told in a final email from Chris Loder, after the police visit, that

“As we’ve attracted a large number of Chideock Parishioners, the bookings are already oversubscribed”.

Ms Swan and Ms Glock both live in the constituency within five miles of the village and have not been offered an alternative opportunity to meet their MP.

Press release ends.

Some observations:

  1. What a ridiculous use of notoriously scant local, rural policing resources.
  2. These women and the organisations they represent must be on some sort of black or watch list, held by their constituency MP.
  3. They have broken no laws.

Is this the direction of travel following the adoption of the dreadful Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Act and a taste of what is to come under the even more repressive Public Order bill and the Rights Removal bill (as the latter is known by human rights campaigners)?

I find this deeply disturbing. It is part of a growing pattern of suppression and intimidation of those fighting to raise awareness of the state of our environment and the accelerating pace of climate change. The measures being adopted by government and the police are profoundly anti-democratic.

We must express our concern and work to ensure that a future government will reverse these draconian laws, which are more typical of the police states and dictatorships our current government so readily and glibly condemns. This is NOT who we are.