Police officers overseeing this year’s Purim celebrations in London say they removed Jewish children from trucks because they were “dangerously overloaded”.
Orthodox community leaders in Stamford Hill have complained that the police “ruined Purim” after officers stepped in last week, but on Monday the Metropolitan Police’s Safer Neighbourhoods Team said verbal cautions could just as easily have been arrests.
In a statement, Sergeant James Melton said: “A decision was made to remove some children from a truck purely for safety reasons. It was deemed by the officers present that the truck was dangerously overloaded and unsafely carrying its load.”
He added: “This is a criminal offence under Section 40A of the road Traffic Act 1988, and the driver could have been arrested or processed for the offence. On this occasion, no further action was taken and the incident was dealt with by words of advice and the unsafe load was managed appropriately.”
A planning meeting with police officers, community leaders, Hackney Council and representatives of the Community Security Trust (CST) had earlier been held, with “concerns raised by a number of parties as to road safety during the event”.
Asked whether Melton understood communal anger as regards officers’ actions around Mountfield Road on Thursday, he said: “Our overriding objective when policing festivals and other community events is public safety.
“We wish for everyone to enjoy a safe and enjoyable Purim however we must take into account the safety of passengers, other road users and the general public when officers see vehicles carrying festival goers in a potentially unsafe manner.
“The officers did not end any celebrations by asking the drivers to correct their loads, and were responding to the safety of passengers observed on the vehicles.
“I understand community members may feel it was unnecessary but I would like to reassure them it was necessary in order to prevent anybody getting injured. This decision is based on years of experience.”
Melton added that “many vehicles carrying festival goers were observed by officers to be safely carrying passengers and were not stopped or spoken to,” while a small handful were “spoken to and given words of advice”.