Policing animal demos cost £400,000

Taxpayers have been left with a bill of more than £400,000 for the policing of live animal exports from a port in Kent, it has been disclosed.

Campaigners against the trade claim most people believe exporting companies should foot the bill racked up at the Port of Ramsgate.

The county's police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes said Kent Police's protest operation was "proportionate" and the result of "careful deliberation".

A report from Chief Constable Ian Learmonth said the live animal export trade was a "highly sensitive and emotional" subject but still lawful.

Exports have taken place from Ramsgate since Dover Harbour Board decided it could no longer provide a docking facility in April 2011. Since July of that year there have been 84 scheduled live animal sailings from Ramsgate, of which 21 were later cancelled, Mr Learmonth's report said.

Events passed largely peacefully until the end of last year when some protests boiled over, reviving memories of clashes in the 1990s when Britain was one of Europe's biggest live exporters.

Mr Learmonth said alleged offences at Ramsgate included intimidation of the shipping agent and its staff, and of export drivers who were pelted with missiles and had their lorries damaged.

Fifteen arrests occurred last year for alleged offences including obstruction, criminal damage and failing to comply with Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986.

In his report, Mr Learmonth said: "The context of the policing strategy has been discussed with protester groups, exporters and relevant partner agencies. Our approach to the protesters and those agencies is one of open dialogue and a 'no surprises' approach."

Policing the protests, including overtime, amounted to £167,127 between July and December 2011, and £237,915 from January to December last year.

Mrs Barnes said it "does represent a significant cost to the council taxpayers of Kent", adding: "I hope the publication of this detailed report serves to reassure the people of Kent that the policing of this trade is the result of careful deliberation and is proportionate."