Appleby Fair 2018 – Police Review and Gypsy Response

Appleby Fair 2018

Police Commissioner’s Review and the Gypsy Representatives’ Response

Appleby Fair from the South West. Fair Hill Upper Right.


At a heated public meeting after Appleby Horse Fair in 2018, Councillor P. Dew alleged that there had been ‘a complete breakdown of law and order’ in Kirkby Stephen during the build up to Appleby Fair in 2018. Cumbria Police were subjected to some severe criticism, which was repeated in the local press.

In response, Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Peter McCall used his statutory powers to request a formal review of policing operations during the fair. That review was presented at a Public Accountability Conference in September, chaired by the Commissioner.

The review provided detailed information on crime reports, police policy, tactics, and operations. It confirmed that the 2018 was in fact significantly quieter and less troublesome than the average for the last 10 years. Nevertheless, the impression remained, and was repeated in the local press, that the Fair was violent, frightening, and so unsafe that a County Councillor was unwilling to walk round the Fair in the company of the Chief Constable.

Gypsy and Traveller representatives attended the conference, and they have studied the Police review in detail. The review does not support the allegation of ‘a complete breakdown of law and order’ and in fact it contradicts that assertion in detail. These findings are presented here.

Important Note: The Gypsy and Traveller Representatives recognise that many local people were traumatised by a barbarous and disgusting assault on a local businessman, whose car struck a small child who ran into the road from a roadside encampment during the week before the Fair. Although blameless and innocent, the man was badly beaten and seriously hurt. No reasonable or sensible person can have anything but contempt and disgust for that assault, for which there can be no possible excuse or justification.
The purpose of this statement is not to attempt to justify or excuse that criminal act, but to appeal to residents of the area not to let it distort their view of a successful and enjoyable public event, which has been steadily improving over the last 10 years. Violent incidents of this kind are extremely rare, and not in any way typical of the Fair. The great majority of visitors, of whom only 25% are Gypsies, are law abiding and well behaved, as evidenced by the crime statistics set out below.

There are two sides to this story, and the purpose of this statement is to ask that the criminal behaviour of a handful of individuals should not be used to condemn the other 40,000 people for whom the fair is a valuable, worthwhile and enjoyable experience.

Cumbria Police fully recognise that additional measures may be required in 2019 to monitor and control any anti-social behaviour and petty crime in Kirkby Stephen, and they are already discussing how this will be achieved. Although there is no doubt that some residents had negative experiences, there were many in Kirkby Stephen itself who had no complaint of any kind, who had a happy and enjoyable time, and who commented on the relaxed, happy and trouble-free atmosphere.

Deatiled Press Release:

On Wednesday 26th September 2018, the Cumbria Police Commissioner, Peter McCall, chaired a Public Accountability meeting to hear a report from Cumbria Constabulary on the policing of Appleby Fair in 2018.  The Commissioner put questions to the Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable and Assistant Chief Constable on behalf of the general public. In reply, Cumbria Constabulary presented a detailed and comprehensive report about the background, strategy and day-to-day management of the policing of the Fair, and they outlined their proposals for possible changes to police operations for 2019, in response to the concerns raised by the PCC. Gypsy and Traveller Representatives Billy Welch and Bill Lloyd attended the meeting, and this Media Notice summarises the main points and underlines some statistics taken from the Police presentation.

Appleby Horse Fair gives rise to one of the largest single deployments of Cumbia Police resources during the year and is one of the least troublesome when measured by the number of crimes and the number of arrests.

  1. The crime rate in Appleby and Upper Eden does in fact decrease during the period of Appleby Fair. No doubt this is due in part to the presence of up to 200 police officers on the main days and demonstrates that the Police strategy and operation is in fact successful at reducing crime.
  2. The priority for policing the fair is to ensure the safety of both those attending and of the local community, together with deterring criminality and ensuring public order.
  3. During the period for which officers were deployed in 2018, Cumbria Police were requested to attend 8742 incidents throughout the county, an average of 624 per day. Of these 8742 incidents, 168 were related to Appleby Fair, or an average of 12 per day.
  4. The average waiting time on 101, the Police Non-Emergency Number, was 3 minutes 24 seconds.
  5. The total number of incidents reported across the county in this period included one murder, 8 rapes, and over a dozen ‘missing person’ reports, all of which required significant deployment of manpower and other resources, and none of which were connected to the Fair.
  6. The number of arrests during the 2018 Fair was the lowest for the last 10 years, and the number of crimes was 15% below average for that period.
  7. The number of reported incidents at Appleby Fair in 2018 was 10% below the average for the period.
  8. In Eden and South Lakeland districts in 2018, the total number of caravans was down by 45% from the peak (2010) both during the build-up and during the Fair. At the various approved, tolerated and informal stopping places, the number of caravans was significantly lower than in the previous three years, and 37% lower than the peak in 2010. The number of caravans at the roadside was higher in some locations on the A685 around Kirkby Stephen and Brough, due to various factors including the good weather and the closure of private sites used in previous years. This caused increased pressure on these towns.
  9. All roadside stopping places were monitored and reviewed daily and assessed according to a formal scale to determine their safety, appropriateness and community impact. If an informal site exceeded the acceptable thresholds on these scales, the caravans were moved on. This is a well-established policy and was improved in 2018 by daily conference calls between the agencies.
  10. Policing of Appleby Fair is planned using analysis of previous years’ data. Police resources are deployed accordingly based on that data, some of which is quoted above, combined with new intelligence.
  11. In 2018, there were greater numbers of visitors in and around Kirkby Lonsdale and Sedbergh, and those towns experienced an increase in petty crime and anti-social behaviour. At the post-Fair Community Forum review, Police Inspector Latham stated that the incidents in these towns were almost all attributable to a single identified gang of youths, of the type who cause that sort of trouble in all major cities.
  12. At the public meeting at Kirkby Stephen, County Councillor Dew alleged that there was a ‘complete breakdown of law and order’ in the town in 2018. This is contradicted by the evidence of police reports and ‘calls for service’, and no evidence has been produced to support it.  Kirkby Stephen was crowded at times, and there was some obstruction and some minor isolated incidents of urinating in the street and loose horses, etc. Some adjustments to policing may be required, but the number of calls for service and reported incidents show that the allegation of a ‘complete breakdown of law and order’ is false, and the language used (comparing it to the ‘Wild West’ etc.) was inaccurate, and deliberately inflammatory.


In response to the criticisms raised by the public, the Cumbria Constabulary Review of Policing Operations proposed 8 adjustments to their operations for 2019. These included, for example, reviewing the resourcing model to ensure the availability of back-up patrols if designated patrols were deployed to meet urgent problems elsewhere in the County, and the improvement of public awareness of engagement meetings and of the 101-telephone line to report incidents.  These proposed adjustments have been outlined in the Review of the Policing Operation, and they are fully supported by the Gypsy and Traveller Representatives on the Multi Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group.

It should be noted that approximately 25% of those attending the Fair are Gypsies and Travellers. Like any community, of any ethnic origin, there is a very small minority of violent, lawless or criminal elements, but the great majority of all who attend the Fair, including Gypsies and Travellers, are law-abiding people. The leaders of the Gypsy Community would like to put on record that they condemn law-breaking wherever and whenever it occurs, and that anyone who comes to Appleby Fair and breaks the law deserves to be, and should be, arrested.  Anti-social behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We encourage the local community to report incidents of lawbreaking to the police as soon as possible, giving details of time and place.  If the 101 lines are busy, they will need to be patient, but all calls will be answered and will be acted upon appropriately. If people are afraid to make such reports because of intimidation, that too is a criminal offence and should be reported.

On the other side of the coin, The Gypsy representatives would ask all residents who are affected by the arrival of 40,000 visitors not to see intimidation where it does not exist, not to waste police time by reporting hearsay or second-hand information, and not to exaggerate reports of behaviour which is not illegal, simply on the grounds that they do not like it.  Some examples will illustrate this point. Complaints were received in 2018 about people driving horses on the road at speed and at night. Neither of these activities is against the law. Parking a caravan on the verge is not illegal, so long as it does not breach a Traffic Regulation Order or cause obstruction. Urinating in the street or burning stolen fence-posts are both against the law, and no reasonable person would argue that the law should not be enforced, but when assessing priorities for action, and with limited resources, Police will naturally and correctly place these offences as lower priorities for response than murder, rape or missing persons, and below the need to maintain a safe environment. Life is not perfect, there are never enough resources and although ‘zero-tolerance’ may be a comforting idea, it cannot always be achieved in the real world.

At the PCC Public Accountability meeting, a Cumbria County Councillor was invited by Chief Constable Michelle Skeer to accompany her on a tour of Appleby Fair in 2019, to see for herself the campsites, the market field, and the police operation. The Councillor declined the invitation, because she said she feared for her safety. We suggest that it is not reasonable for an elected representative to be ‘afraid for her safety’ when invited to walk around Appleby Fair in the company of the Chief Constable.  We acknowledge that the serious assault which took place in the week before the Fair caused genuine fear and alarm, but that isolated and unprecedented incident is not in any way typical. Appleby Fair is the among the safest events in the Cumbria Police calendar, with very little violence. Policing is subject to extended and detailed planning, observation and management, based on hard evidence and objective facts, and demonstrates considerable success. The suggestion that it is unsafe to walk around the Fair in the company of senior Police Officers is false and misleading and encourages public hostility to the Fair. It represents a prejudiced and unacceptable impression of a legitimate public event.

Background: The Gypsy and Traveller representatives do not ‘run’ or manage Appleby Fair, but they attend the monthly MASCG meetings and the daily review meetings with Police and the local community.  They represent the tenants of Fair Hill, who pay rent to Appleby Town Council for the use of Fair Hill for the week. The tenants also pay for maintenance of the roadways, grass cutting, drainage, tractors and towing vehicles, rubbish collection and skips, stewarding, gatemen, and the whole cost of cleaning up Fair Hill.  The Gypsy and Traveller community are committed to working closely with police, and they welcome police patrols on Fair Hill. When those patrols were discontinued several years ago, and the Police Control vehicle was moved away from Fair Hill, the Gypsies themselves asked for those service to be re-instated. The tenants pay a contribution to police costs, even though any kind of police intervention on Fair Hill is rare and unusual.

Further information:

Billy Welch or Bill Lloyd

bill at         


[whohit]Fair Press Notice[/whohit]

Police Review: Full text here:

Appleby Fair 2018 – Review of Policing Operation

Appleby Fair from the North. Fair Hill in the Foreground