Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 10:19 UK

Bowlers say police 'heavy handed'

Police at the bowling green on Sunday, pic courtesy Bradley Stoke Journal
Police said it was now a civil matter, pic courtesy Bradley Stoke Journal

Bowls club members in South Gloucestershire have claimed police used "heavy-handed" tactics when seven officers broke up a protest match.

Police said they were called to reports of a burglary in progress and a number of officers attended.

"On arrival there was no break-in so no need for action. It is now a civil matter," a police spokesman said

But former bowls club president Alan Brackstone claims the police response was "heavy handed".

He said: "The police called for backup and seven officers and four cars arrived, with sirens wailing."

Bradley Stoke Town Council shut the 100 members out in September last year after a deadlock in negotiations, forcing them to clear the club out.

The council, which rents the ground to the club, wants to increase fees by some 50% to 2,300, and then 8% a year for the next four years.

The club said many of its 100 members were elderly and could not afford to pay the increased fees.

'Vendetta' claim

Mr Brackstone, 74, a retired printer, said an official complaint was to be lodged about the "heavy handed" police presence.

He said: "There seems to be a vendetta against the bowls club. Someone cut through the chain, but it wasn't any of the members.

"The caretaker came out with two policemen and said we had to leave and that damage had been done. All the members wanted to do was to play bowls and to make their point.

The police called for backup and seven officers and four cars arrived, with sirens wailing
Former bowls club president Alan Brackstone

Margaret Thompson, secretary of North Avon Bowls Club, said: "Within 10 minutes two policemen arrived, followed swiftly by five more police with sirens wailing.

"There was a total of seven police and four cars. They originally charged us with criminal damage and threatened arrest but after discussions they decided it was a civil matter and as it was a peaceful protest, we then left the green."

Mayor of Bradley Stoke Julian Barge said the club members had abandoned the negotiating table and turned up "mob-handed".

Mr Barge said: "This was totally irresponsible and completely inflammatory. We've tried very hard to discuss this with the club for over a year now.

"They have behaved in an extremely negative way and have no intention whatever of negotiating.

"The chain on the entrance was mysteriously cut; if you want to be pedantic it is criminal damage. They said they just walked in, but do you believe that? For them to turn up mob-handed like that was just outrageous."

Police called to bowls club row
21 Apr 08 |  Bristol/Somerset

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