Hundreds fall foul of Heath bylaws

LYING about in a verminous or offensively filthy condition or wilfully remaining in an open space after closing is enough to earn you a ticking off from Hampstead Heath s police. These are just two of the bylaws enforced by the Heath s

Susanna Wilkey

LYING about in a "verminous or offensively filthy condition" or "wilfully remaining in an open space after closing" is enough to earn you a ticking off from Hampstead Heath's police.

These are just two of the bylaws enforced by the Heath's constabulary which also include cycling on non designated paths, barbecuing, causing pollution to water, camping and dog control.

Last year's figures for crime and breaches of bylaws on the Heath have just been published and while there has been a slight increase in the number of incidents, constabulary manager Richard Gentry (pictured) is not unduly worried.

He said: "One of the things that has changed over the last year is that constables are spending more of the hours that they work out on the Heath so that could be why more incidents have been reported.

"We certainly have not seen a dramatic increase in crime or in people breaching bylaws which demonstrates that the constabulary do carry out a valuable role on the Heath.

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"During the summer we do see an increase in crime against the person, mainly robbery. We do work closely with the Metropolitan police to try to deal with this as effectively as we can.

"And the other part of the work we do is bylaw enforcement which means the Heath is a safe and pleasant experience for everyone who comes.

"The biggest issues we are still dealing with are cycling, dog related issues and littering. They are the issues we concentrate on throughout the year."

Among the figures include 25 people who have attempted to camp out on the Heath, 53 who have tried to have a BBQ or light a fire, 51 causing pollution to water and 33 who have committed a nuisance contrary to public decency or propriety.

Mr Gentry added: "Causing pollution to water is normally people using little petrol motor boats in the lakes which are damaging.

"Committing any nuisance contrary to public decency or propriety can be anything from swearing and gesturing to behaviour we consider inappropriate although it might not be criminal.

"And people are not allowed to sleep rough on the Heath. When we find them we work with a local outreach team because we are concerned about their welfare."

Anyone breaking a bylaw faces anything from a warning to a �500 fine and court action against them.

Mr Gentry added: "Bylaws are not always about taking people to court they are about educating people so that everyone coming to the Heath can enjoy themselves and making sure people's behaviour dose not interfere with other people having a good time.

"Next year we will continue to focus on cycling because it is always one of the high profile activities which get reported to us a lot. And dog control is another important issue."

The constabulary team are over the moon with the results of a survey of Heath users which revealed 93 per cent of people felt fairly or very safe when using the Heath.

Mr Gentry said: "We have seven million people using the Heath every year so that is a great number who feel safe.