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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 18:08 GMT
Police investigate burning of effigies
Firle bonfire night
The Firle bonfire party has been criticised
An investigation has begun after a caravan with effigies of Gypsies was burnt at a village bonfire party, Sussex police have said.

BBC South East Today revealed on Tuesday how residents were left shocked when the caravan was wheeled through a street in Firle, East Sussex, before being torched.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, called for those responsible to be prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred - an offence which can lead to a jail term of seven years.

On Wednesday, a Sussex Police spokesman said: "Police received no complaints about the nature of the tableaux paraded and burned at the celebrations, but in the light of the news item broadcast by the BBC an investigation has begun."

He added: "There is a tradition of bonfire celebration across East Sussex, organised by local bonfire celebrations.

"The nationally famous celebration at Lewes, on 5 November is the largest such event. Other smaller societies tend to hold their celebrations on weekends around that date to avoid clashing with Lewes.

"As part of their celebrations, some bonfire societies have traditionally produced tableaux based on a topical theme, which may be local or national. These tableaux are paraded by the societies before being burned at their bonfire sites.

"In order not to prejudice this investigation, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage."

The BBC's Luisa Baldini
"The controversy is smouldering on"

Gypsy effigies burnt on bonfire
28 Oct 03  |  Southern Counties

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