THE SIKH community is demanding answers over the handling of a protest at a temple in Leamington.
It follows the acquittal by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court of two men who had been accused of trying to disrupt a mixed faith wedding at the Gurdwara Sahib on Tachbrook Park Drive in September 2016.
Both men said they were not even aware a wedding was taking place and were part of a peaceful protest over the use of temple funds.
Reports at the time claimed up to 30 men had burst into the temple – some supposedly carrying swords – which prompted an armed police response.
Police arrested 55 men on suspicion of aggravated trespass while a number of ‘weapons’ – subsequently found to be Kirpans or ceremonial swords – were also seized. Only two men were charged.
A spokesperson for Sikh Heritage Association Warwick & Leamington (SHAWL) said: “This was a lawful and peaceful protest, where Warwickshire Police and subsequently Crown Prosecution Service acted on misleading and false information.
“The incident at the time brought the law-abiding Sikh community into serious disrepute with a massive over reaction with armed police being deployed.
“It must have been very apparent to those responding from the police very early on that this was not a terrorist incident.
“A scaling down of the response could have taken place and saved a significant expense to the taxpayer.
“It is important for all concerned to investigate the disproportionate response and learn for the future.
“Community cohesion is not helped when what now was found to be a peaceful and legitimate protest is dealt with such force.”
Sikh leaders have questioned the police response saying it verged on being ‘irresponsible’.
They have also queried the standard of diversity training officers receive and the cost of the operation.
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said: “I am always keen to gain feedback from the public on policing and criminal justice matters, so I want to understand first hand the concerns that the recent court hearings have generated within the Sikh community.
“As was the case following the initial incident at the Gurdwara in September 2016, arrangements are now being made to meet with community representatives to enable them to share their concerns with myself and senior officers.
“I hope this will be constructive and will also provide Warwickshire Police with a further opportunity to provide reassurance about their commitment to good relations with the Sikh community in the county.”
Supt Andy Nolan of Warwickshire Police was equally keen to hold talks.
He said: “We value the Sikh community in Warwickshire and continue to recognise the importance of a good relationship.
“It is important to provide reassurance to the local Sikh community and address any concerns they have.”