Representatives of the travelling community have praised police action after stolen vehicles were seized ahead of Appleby Horse Fair.

A motorhome and a Ford Transit van were seized on Sunday (June 2) after South Lakes' Neighbourhood policing team patrolled the Kirkby Lonsdale and Sedbergh area.

Alongside the Rural Crime Team and the National Construction and Agricultural Theft Team, officers visited encampments in the Sedbergh area.

READ MORE: Men arrested and suspected stolen caravans seized

The two vehicles are believed to have been stolen in separate incidents in other parts of the country.

These seizures followed similar police activity in the Eden area which has resulted in several arrests and seizure of further stolen vehicles.

Superintendent Dan St Quintin, Police Gold Commander for the Appleby Horse Fair, said: “The arrests we have made have been intelligence-led and aimed at targeting a small minority so that the vast majority of law-abiding people who are intending to come to the county to enjoy the Fair positively can do so."

“The enforcement action we have taken so far in collaboration with our partners has been significant and we can assure the public that we will continue to act against anyone who commits criminal offences – whether here in Cumbria or elsewhere in the country.”

The action taken by the police and partners has been supported in a statement by Gypsy and Traveller representatives, Billy Welch and Bill Lloyd.

They said: “Cumbria Police have used good intelligence, modern technology and pro-active policing to identify and recover a significant number of stolen caravans.

“Some people have been quick to claim on social media that these pro-active police actions are heavy-handed harassment and persecution. We disagree. The Gypsy and Traveller representatives disassociate themselves from those comments. That is not our opinion, and we fully support this police action."

“We know nothing about the people found in possession of the stolen caravans, but that does not matter. Whilst investigations are on-going, we understand that some of the people affected – who were not arrested - had purchased their caravans innocently, not knowing that they were stolen, and they were themselves victims.

The Westmorland Gazette: Suspected stolen caravans were recovered“We advise people to be very careful when buying a caravan – it easy to get scammed. It is unfortunate for anyone who finds out that they have bought a stolen caravan, but Police were simply doing their job. The recoveries were carried out calmly and with no trouble, and with the full co-operation of those affected.

“We believe that all law-abiding people who are the majority visitors to the Fair will have no complaint about this action, whether they are Romani Gypsies, ‘weekend Gypsies’, or horse lovers, adventurous holiday makers, or day visitors from the settled community.

“However, anyone who knowingly brings stolen property to Appleby Fair deserves what they get. It is their own fault, and they will get no sympathy from us.

“Appleby Fair is a horse fair, and an ancient event with great cultural significance. It attracts all sorts of people, the majority of whom are not Gypsies.

"The priority of the Gypsy and Traveller representatives is to preserve the reputation of the Fair so that it can continue for our children and grandchildren and future generations.

“We have never tried to defend or condone criminality of any description and we never will, which is why we congratulate the Police on their good intelligence and the smooth and efficient recovery operations.”

Over the weekend police, working in conjunction with partners from the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-Ordinating Group (MASCG), took enforcement action against people on land at Settlebeck School in Sedbergh without permission.

The action was taken under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 due to the negative impact their actions were having on an educational premises and the broader community of Sedbergh, said police.