Police called to Lovejoy village for third time in two months

A view of the church and green at Long Melford. Photograph Tudor Morgan-Owen.

A view of the church and green at Long Melford. Photograph Tudor Morgan-Owen. - Credit: Archant

Police have been called to a picture-postcard Suffolk village for the third time in two months, this time to deal with a heated dispute at the parish council offices.

In October and November, officers were asked to restore order at two separate Long Melford Parish Council meetings following intense exchanges between parishioners and councillors.

The most recent drama unfolded yesterday afternoon after council members Richard and Carole Michette refused to leave the authority’s offices in Hall Street until they had been shown a list of recent council cheque payments.

Last night, parish clerk Jill Gould claimed that the police had been called again because the couple had become “abusive and threatening” to her and council chairman Jane Lines.

Meanwhile Mr Michette admitted that things had become “heated” but said councillors were within their rights to demand copies of documents, and had a “responsibility” to ensure public money was being spent correctly.

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A police spokeswoman confirmed they had received a call at 12.50pm reporting a verbal argument at the council offices. The two people involved reportedly had “angry dogs” with them.

The spokeswoman said: “We attended and no offences were recorded. We gave advice and the two councillors left the building. The (police) Sergeant will be made aware as this is an ongoing problem.”

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According to Mr Michette the couple missed the September parish council meeting because they we were on holiday. They had subsequently requested the cheque list several times and were eventually told they could pick up a photocopy.

Mr Michette said: “We were out walking the dogs and dropped into the council offices as we’d been told to, but when we got there, the clerk said we couldn’t see the cheque lists.

“We are within our rights to demand copies of any documents and we believe information is being withheld, so we said we wouldn’t leave until we got them.

“We have an equal responsibility with other parish councillors to ensure public money is being spent correctly and we are not being given the paperwork we are asking for.

“It did get quite heated and that’s when the police were called.”

Mrs Gould said following certain allegations, the council computers had been taken away for forensic examination, a report had been made and new machines would be installed shortly.

She added: “In the meantime, we only have access to a certain amount of detail.

“The Michettes were sent five emails telling them we don’t have the information they were asking for at the moment, but this morning they came in demanding and screaming at me, telling me that until I produce these documents, they will not leave the office.”

She said she felt Mr Michette had behaved in a threatening manner towards her, pointing his finger in her face.

Mrs Lines, who was also present, claimed that the couple had been “abusive” and had made personal comments about her and her family which she said was “unacceptable”.

Last month following weeks of infighting between factions of the council, Mrs Lines called for all members to step down.

The idea was to force a by-election so the council could start afresh and the people of Long Melford could vote for who they wanted to run the village. However, the Michettes refused to resign.

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