Appleby Horse Fair arrests more than double in 2023

The number of arrests at this year's Appleby Horse Fair more than doubled as the sunshine brought large numbers of visitors to the area.

The fair was one of the busiest in recent years, while the number of caravans and bowtops in attendance was slightly down on the previous year.

Last year saw the highest number of bowtops and caravans (1,231) recorded since 2015, while there were 1,197 this time around.

Chair of the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG), Steph Cordon of Westmorland and Furness Council, said: “This was my first fair so I was keen to experience as much of it as possible to see what works well and what improvements can be made for how agencies prepare for and respond to future fairs.

“The weather on Saturday combined with the high number of visitors brought significant challenges. However, the effort and work of staff from all of the agencies was outstanding and helped contribute to a positive atmosphere on the ground.

“I’d like to thank all those involved in the fair, as well as the tremendous amount of planning leading up to it, for their efforts.

"I’d also like to reassure the local people of Appleby and the surrounding area that the agencies which make up the MASCG are committed to always working to find solutions to the issues that do arise each year.”

New bar

New for the 2023 event was the Travelling Man bar which provided a venue away from the town centre for people to drink.

The Travelling Man peaked at around 2,000 people in attendance on Saturday night, with "no incidents of concern" reported.

On the Saturday prior to the fair, Cumbria Constabulary carried out an operation on the A685 as motorists arriving from the A66 were stopped by police in partnership with the DVSA and National Rural Crime Unit.

The operation resulted in 120 vehicles being stopped and tickets (Traffic Offence Reports) being issued for more than 20 offences, ranging from vehicle defects and insecure loads to driving without a seatbelt and driving without due care.

Officers also made an arrest on suspicion of drug driving whilst three vehicles were uplifted – one for no insurance and two on suspicion of being stolen.

Operation Tramline

In support of this year’s Appleby policing operation, Cumbria Constabulary ran its second Operation Tramline.

Operation Tramline was a five-day operation running from 5 June to 9 June which was run in partnership with National Highways and saw the constabulary use an unmarked HGV to help officers spot driving offences from an elevated position.

The unmarked HGV patrols covered the A66 in Eden and the M6 road network, in partnership with the DVSA and the constabulary’s Safety Camera Van team.

In total more than 280 actions were taken during the week.

This included:

  • One driver arrested on suspicion of drug driving

  • 200 traffic offence reports were issued

  • 20 vehicles seized

  • Two arrests on suspicion of drug possession with intent to supply

  • 122 speeding offences

  • 77 mobile phone offences

  • More than 25 drivers identified as being over their driving hours

  • 17 vehicles found with mechanical issues in need of immediate action

  • Three fixed penalties issues for overloaded vehicles

  • Two drivers caught without insurance and without tax – both were seized

Action was also taken on not using seatbelts, tyres below minimum tread and vehicles with brake defects.

During the fair itself, police recorded significantly more arrests than in previous years, 42 in 2023 and 18 in 2022.

Chief Superintendent Matt Kennerley, Gold Commander for Appleby Horse Fair, said: “Whilst arrests are up, the vast majority were the result of proactive actions being taken by officers such as driving offences including driving under the influence - rather than public order incidents.

“The event was controlled by a significant police resource throughout and we are pleased to see there were no significant issues of public disorder or potential public disorder which we have seen in recent years.

“Saturday is usually the busiest day for the fair and our officers. The high temperatures brought lots of visitors to the town and The Sands area was incredibly busy on Saturday afternoon.

"However, officers on the ground found the overwhelming majority of people were cordial and positive.

“Road safety has been a major priority for the police this year – as demonstrated by the operations undertaken on the A685 and via Op Tramline in the lead-up to the fair.

"I urge everyone to be cautious as they make their way home today and ask that everyone using the roads today takes extra care as there may be slow-moving vehicles on the roads.”

RSPCA concerns 

Rob Melloy, RSPCA chief inspector, said: “We’re obviously going to be disappointed in the number of exhausted horses we’ve seen over the fair. Some people were working their horses too hard in the heat and our vets have been busy helping those who needed it.

“The Best at Appleby Awards have highlighted some of the amazing horses and horsemanship at the fair and we’d encourage the brilliant horse people here to use their influence, intervene or tell us when they see things they’re concerned about.

“Whilst we have a team of animal welfare officers here we can’t be everywhere – it is a big event over a large area and there are hundreds of horses here. Please come to us if you see anything worrying, rather than put it on social media.

“The Appleby Horse Fair Equine Welfare Project team have been collecting the views of fairgoers and we will be planning our operation next year informed by this feedback. Thank you to everyone who spoke to them.

“The animal welfare charities are not here to spoil people’s fun, if one of our inspectors stops you next year please stop and talk to us, we’re trying to help in the best way possible for everybody.” 

'Wonderful fair'

Gypsy and traveller representative on the MASCG, Billy Welch, said: “We’ve had great weather and it’s been a wonderful fair.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to has thoroughly enjoyed themselves and had a really great time of it.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the police at all ranks for their outstanding work, and to all the public agencies on the MASCG for their professionalism in helping to keep this event safe and enjoyable.

“The new open space with a bar at the crossroads proved to be a very successful innovation and was much appreciated as a place for families to meet up in the sunshine, away from the busy town centre.

“All I ask now is that people take care when heading home and I’d ask that all motorists be aware as they can quickly come up on slow-moving vehicles if they’re not careful.”

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