POLICE have been critcised for failing to arrest an activist who threw piping hot tea in a bailiff’s face.

The drink was thrown at head bailiff Bryan Lecoche when he walked on to the Dale Farm traveller site in Oak Lane, Crays Hill.

He had gone to speak to travellers, ahead of the planned eviction on Monday, to ask them to leave and discuss health and safety concerns when an activist threw the drink at him.

But despite several police being present at the time the offence was committed, no-one was arrested.

Resident Dennis Swaysland, 72, of Beauchamps Drive, Wickford, was among those outraged that no-one was arrested.

He said: “We have seen tea thrown in a bailiff’s face by a traveller and paint thrown at media by a protester, while the police stand idly by.

“This softly, softly favouritism must stop now as the law must be upheld, otherwise anarchy will prevail.”

However, police defended the decision and said they did not want to create further tension.

They also said the incident was not reported as a crime by the victim until days after the incident. Supt Trevor Roe, Essex Police’s spokesman on the eviction, codenamed Operation Cabinet, said: “At the time we didn’t have a complaint made by the victim.

“And we have specific instructions around tensions. We don’t want to light the touch paper to escalate matters. It is our job to negotiate, influence and resolve activities peacefully. At the time the bailiff shook himself dry and carried on walking to the barricade to engage with the travellers and supporters.”

Supt Roe said tactically, by not arresting the activist, police prevented further “disorder and injury” by not inflaming an already tense situation.

He added: “If we were heavy-handed we would be criticised for escalating tensions and people could be hurt deliberately or by accident. If you aren’t going to lose evidence, as this offence was captured on camera, and no initial complaint has been made as in this case, there is nothing to stop you investigating an incident in slow time.”

Police have confirmed Mr Lecoche has now made a complaint and officers are investigating.