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Suffolk/Essex: Region's police plan for Olympic torch journey

PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 May 2012 | UPDATED: 12:47 14 May 2012

The 2012 Olympic Torch

The 2012 Olympic Torch

PA Wire/Press Association Images

A LARGE-scale security operation is being planned to safeguard the passage of the Olympic torch through the region.

The beacon of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle will pass through 33 towns and villages in Suffolk and Essex starting in Lowestoft on July 5.

Police forces in both counties are well aware of the potential for demonstrators to hijack the pre-Olympic celebration in order to maximise worldwide publicity for their cause – but the county’s police operation will be a significant and highly-planned one.

It is understood dozens of riot-trained officers will be among a significant police presence protecting the symbolic flame.

Exact numbers will not be divulged involved. They say a national protocol applies which means each force will not be divulging the exact numbers guarding the torch as it makes its way around the country.

Four years ago there were 37 arrests after clashes between pro-Tibet protesters and police as the Olympic flame made its way through London prior to the Beijing Olympics.

The protests were over China’s human rights record and one demonstrator attempted to snatch the torch from former Blue Peter host Konnie Huq.

Chief Superintendent Bob Scully from Suffolk Constabulary said: “Success for me will be the torch passing safely through Suffolk, with people having enjoyed the day and the spectacle of this once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the Olympic Games.

“The aim is for the police service in the UK to ensure a safe Olympic Games as part of that there’s obviously a nationwide operation to ensure the safe passage of the torch and the participants of the torch relay.

“There are a number of things that we have to be mindful of in respect of the torch, such as its safe passage because of traffic management, safety of the torch bearers, and there is the potential of people who wish to make a protest of some kind.”

A spokesman from Essex Police said: “Our security operation will be effective and robust, yet it will remain proportionate and wherever possible discrete.

“While we fully accept the right of peaceful protest within the law, this right does not entitle someone to prevent or disrupt the Torchbearers from experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Anyone who wishes to protest is urged to make contact with the police service.”

The Metropolitan Police Service will provide the immediate protection for the Olympic Flame and torchbearers throughout its journey, while officers from regional forces will be policing the communities where the torch passes.

The torch is set to travel through Lowestoft, Wrentham, Reydon, Southwold, Kelsale, Saxmundham, Aldeburgh, Wickham Market, Ufford, Melton, Woodbridge, Felixstowe, Ipswich, Haverhill, Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket.

On July 5 it will be making a stopover in Ipswich, alongside a large event in Christchurch Park which will see around 10,000 people attend.

The torch will leave Christchurch Mansion on July 6 and travel through the town centre before leaving Suffolk and heading to Colchester.

From there it will visit Hatfield Peverel, Heybridge, Maldon, Rayleigh and Chelmsford where there will be an evening of celebration at Hylands House.

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