POLICE have agreed to cancel charges for attending Sheffield’s Christmas lights switch-on and Fright Night Hallowe’en celebrations after ‘public pressure’ and lobbying by MPs.
Sheffield South East Labour MP Clive Betts, who was part of a delegation which met district police commander Chief Superintendent Simon Torr, revealed police ‘are not going to pursue charges’.
South Yorkshire Police had levied a bill of around £8,000 to Yellow Bus Events, which organises Fright Night, and was set to charge Sheffield Council £3,700 for tomorrow’s Christmas lights switch-on.
Mr Betts, who met Mr Torr with Brightside and Hillsborough MP David Blunkett and council leader Julie Dore, said: “There will be no attempt to charge for Fright Night or the Christmas lights switch-on.
“Mr Torr also indicated that the police are not going to pursue the charges in the future and will instead work with the council to see how future events should be policed.”
Mr Betts said a combination of ‘public pressure’ - including the issue being highlighted by The Star - and his own legal investigations led to the decision not to charge.
Mr Betts said: “The legal position is that police cannot charge for an event in a public place with open and free access.”
In a letter to Mr Torr sent before the meeting, Mr Betts investigated case law and argued there was no request for the police to provide ‘special’ services for either event.
He added: “It is surely the fundamental responsibility of the police to maintain the Queen’s Peace on the public highway and that is what they should be doing as part of their job and it should not be necessary to pay the police additionally for this.
“The benefit of the policing given it is a public area in the city centre was not just for people attending Fright Night, it was for the public in general and again as in the cases I referred to, this is a very important point as to whether charges can be made.”
Mr Betts also highlighted the police policy of not charging for events which are run by charities or not-for-profit organisations.
“As I understand it the council is not-for-profit organisation and Yellow Bus Events has made no profit out of the Fright Night either,” he said.
Fright Night organiser Scott Barton said: “I’m delighted that the charges are being cancelled after these high level discussions, which will ensure the future of the event.”
Sheffield Council chief executive John Mothersole, said: “I have always felt that this issue could be sensibly resolved.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “Police and Sheffield Council have always worked well together and this continues to be the case. We have a duty to ensure public funds are correctly used to support events but also to ensure that the policing of local communities does not suffer any detriment.
South Yorkshire Police has been in recent discussions with Sheffield Council and event organisers about the policing of events, this is currently under review as we work with our partners to identify the best way forward.”