Gloucestershire police leave halted during badger cull
POLICE in Gloucestershire have been banned from booking leave until January because of the badger cull.
And the organisation which represents their views has warned that overworked officers could make mistakes and might even die while driving home after work.
The Gloucestershire Police Federation fears officers will become exhausted, and being involved in a crash could be a real possibility. With the Government having sanctioned the controversial shooting of badgers in parts of the Tewkesbury area and the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire Constabulary said it would need officers to meet the "increased demands".
The cull is due to begin shortly, once a date is announced by the Government, and could see clashes between farmers, marksmen and animal rights activists.
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Yesterday, a force spokesman said: "We will not be authorising any further annual leave or time off requests for police officers, except in exceptional circumstances, until the New Year. This is regrettable, but is standard practice when planning for events which may place increased demands on our resources.
"Any leave already booked will be honoured. The situation will be kept constantly under review."
In response, Gloucestershire Police Federation warned that officers had been unable to book leave this summer due to the Olympics and were tired.
Chairman Tracy De Young said: "Officers are becoming increasingly fatigued due to the lack of rest. We are concerned that as fatigue takes hold mistakes will be made and accidents will occur."
She added there was already an increase in sickness which she believed was because officers were overtired.
She added:"Officers will continue to do their very best for the communities we serve, but I am afraid that this will lead to a reduced service, a dip in performance and could lead to increased levels of complaints.
"At worst, my fear is that the longer the leave ban goes on, the worse the situation will become, until the unthinkable happens and we have a fatal incident."
â A majority of Tewkesbury borough councillors have voiced opposition to the cull. At a meeting they rejected a motion that it should proceed. Meanwhile, in the Forest of Dean, a rave had been planned for the first night of the cull to ensure people were outside and farmers unable to shoot.
At the Labour party conference yesterday, leader Ed Miliband said the cull would not solve the problem.
He said: "I don't think it's proved by the science."