‘We’ll be back’ – horse and trap drivers claim Sunderland police ‘victimisation’ after clash

Police at the Round Robin pub during Sunday's pony and trap drive.
Police at the Round Robin pub during Sunday's pony and trap drive.
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HORSE and trap owners plan to continue their annual “drive” through Sunderland, despite clashing with police.

On Sunday, scores of officers were deployed after a large number of carriages made their way through the city, and converged at an estate pub.

One man was arrested after police tried to contain the procession amid safety fears.

The incident highlighted growing concerns from officers and residents over pony and traps on the city’s roads.

But those involved in the weekend parade say they are being “victimised” and have no intention of cancelling future gatherings.

One organiser, who asked not to be named, told the Echo: “There is a prejudice against us and I don’t know why.

“When you see large groups of people standing outside pubs on the seafront, you don’t get police converging on them and shutting the pub down, do you?

“We were just taking part in something that happens every year, there were families there and we all wanted to enjoy ourselves. The police just overreacted.

“We meet most Sundays during the summer months in different places but the only place where we have a problem is Sunderland.”

The procession started at noon on Sunday, leaving the Round Robin pub in Ford Estate, down Chester Road, through Holmeside and back up Hylton Road to the pub.

While organisers argued the parade was a legitimate meeting of travellers and carriage enthusiasts from across the region, there was speculation on the day that it was in fact a birthday celebration for a local girl.

Residents say there has been a growth in recent years of “plastic gypsies” springing up across the city – those with permanent homes who adopt the traveller-style of life.

Liz Healy, 34, visiting her mother in Ford Estate, said: “Driving around the streets is a nightmare sometimes because of these horse and traps.

“I would say they are an accident waiting to happen, but I understand there’s already been a few accidents involving them.”

In April this year, two teenagers were left in hospital after they were thrown from a horse and cart at the junction of St Luke’s Road and Front Street, in Ford Estate.

A 17-year-old girl suffered head wounds in the fall while a 16-year-old boy sustained serious injuries to his body.

Chief Insp Jerry Pearson, of Northumbria Police, said: “On Sunday we responded to a number of calls from concerned members of the public about horses and carts on the roads around Hylton Road causing problems for traffic and potentially putting road users at risk.

“Officers attended and spoke to the riders. Safety advice was given and officers remained in the area while the riders dispersed and to ensure public safety.

“It became apparent that the riders had gathered for a 21st birthday celebration and our understanding is 
that this was a one off birthday event – however, if any similar events are planned in the future, we would urge organisers to contact the police and local authority in advance to discuss the matter.

“Our priority is always public safety, and appropriate action will be taken against anyone that puts members of the public at risk or those who cause unreasonable disruption to our communities.”

The man arrested during Sunday’s disturbance has accepted a caution from Northumbria Police for a public order offence.