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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Anger over 'Operation Pagan' name
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Kent Police said the name had been generated at random
Pagans have reacted with anger to Kent Police naming an autumn crackdown on crime "Operation Pagan".

The campaign is to cut anti-social behaviour in Ashford around key dates such as Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night.

A spokesman for the Pagan Federation said it was "grossly irresponsible" to link the religion's name to crime.

Kent Police said they were sorry if the name caused distress and said it had been withdrawn when it was realised it had the potential to cause offence.

The Pagan Federation has about 5,000 members.

They wouldn't have called it Operation Christian, Operation Jew or Operation Muslim
Brian Botham, Pagan Federation

Its spokesman Brian Botham said: "Grossly irresponsible sums it up quite well, I think."

He said he contacted Ashford Police station when he was first alerted to the issue and was told the name had been generated from a database at random.

But Mr Botham said: "They wouldn't have called it Operation Christian, Operation Jew or Operation Muslim for obvious reasons, so why Operation Pagan?

"Operation Pagan is associating a generic name for our religion with crime."

In a statement, Kent Police said: "We are sorry if the name given to this police operation caused distress, as this was certainly not our intention.

"As is normal practice in the police, it was chosen in rotation from a database of operational names.

"We try to avoid inappropriate names, but initially missed this one. We withdrew it as soon as we realised its potential to cause offence."

The force said its work to tackle anti-social behaviour on the estate had come under a county-wide operation to address nuisance crime, which had been "highly successful".

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