Redbridge Police moved in to protect school pupils but admit failings over sleeping bag incident

A police photo taken during the operation shows an old gym mattress and rubbish

A police photo taken during the operation shows an old gym mattress and rubbish - Credit: Archant

Redbridge police this week revealed more details of an operation which led to them being accused of confiscating sleeping bags from rough sleepers and admitted their response to complaints could have been better.

A meeting was called on Tuesday between borough commander Det Ch Supt Sue Williams and Recorder editor Chris Carter following a storm of protest after last week’s front page article and web story.

Also at the meeting was Ch Insp for Safer Neighbourhoods John Fish and Sgt Jake Sutton – who led the operation involving three areas used by homeless people – plus news editor Zjan Shirinian and reporter Amanda Nunn.

The Recorder had reported claims by charities that items were taken by police from homeless people.

The police response from Mr Fish failed to deny the claims, but after social media networks were inundated with comments Mrs Williams issued a statement insisting her officers had not confiscated any items.

She said at the meeting that “in hindsight” someone from one of the charities should have been asked to attend and communication should have been better.

She said: “We should have had someone from the outreach team – it would have been beneficial to us, we recognise in hindsight.”

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And yesterday (Wednesday) Mrs Williams added: “I understand the public interest regarding the Ilford Recorder article. While I stand by my statement released on Friday, we have been slow to react to press inquiries and the concerns raised as a result of police activity – this led to the Recorder’s article not fully representing our position.

“As a result we will be reviewing our multi-agency strategy and how we work with the voluntary services, as part of our response to the homeless community.”

Clementswood and Ilford Town Centre Safer Neighbourhood Team Sgt Sutton said that his team went to the baths after a request from the Isaac Newton Academy, Cricklefield Place, off High Road, Ilford.

He said: “The school said there was lots of rubbish and drugs paraphernalia. The school and MP Mike Gapes were putting a lot of pressure on us to do something.

“The two people there were given ample opportunity to take their belongings. The rest was rubbish which didn’t belong to anybody.”

They also visited St Mary’s Church cemetery, High Road, Ilford, where there were temporary structures, followed by speaking to a woman in a shop doorway.

Rita Chadha, from the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London (Ramfel), High Road, Ilford, said: “We thank the police for their communication even if it is via the media. We stand by what our clients told us and we have no reason to disbelieve them.”