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Traveller family complains over ‘racist’ remarks
7:30am Monday 19th August 2013 in News
POLICE are investigating claims a Tory councillor’s comments about an illegal traveller site were “racist”.
Mark Coxshall, Thurrock councillor for Corringham, described the site, in Southend Road, Corringham, as “a cross between my big, fat, gipsy cesspit and Shameless”.
Police have confirmed they are investigating after the traveller family who live there complained the councillor’s comments had left them facing a torrent of abuse.
Mr Coxshall made the remark as Thurrock Council rejected a planning application from the Ward family, who want to stay on the site.
A police spokesman said: “We are looking into an allegation of hate crime, involving comments made by a councillor, relating to a traveller site in Stanford-le-Hope.”
Five adults and six children moved on to the site, which the Ward family owns, at Easter, then applied for planning permission.
A statement from them said: “The comments made by councillor Mark Coxshall to the press and public are, we believe, inciting racial hatred and discriminatory against the legally recognised and defined ethnic minority of gipsies and travellers.
“We have read up on the TV pro g r amme Shameless and it depicts characters involved in theft, benefit fraud, prostitution, abuse and drug dealing. We believe the negative comments are unacceptable.”
Another family member said: “We’ve had people driving past the gates, swearing, beeping their horns and shouting at us to leave.”
In response, Mr Coxshall said: “I utterly refute any suggestion the comments were in any way racist.
“They were not about all travellers. I have no problem with travellers who abide by planning law and I have no desire to get into a row with the wider traveller community. I have a legal traveller site in my ward and I support its occupants.
“My comments were about the illegal site.I certainly do not a pologise for taking a hardline approach against illegal sites. It is very dangerous to make the leap that comments which may not be politically-correct are, by definition, hate-fuelled.”