COLCHESTER’S top cop has denied claims police are giving illegally camped travellers special treatment.

Essex Police have been criticised after farmer Tracy St Clair Pearce had her legally-owned shotguns seized after an altercation with four men at her rare breed farm next to the site, off Severalls Lane.

Miss St Clair Pearce, 50, alleged four men exposed themselves and one of them threatened her with a chainsaw and knives.

A 14-year-old boy has been interviewed by police and a file will be submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Chief Supt Alison Newcomb, Essex Police’s eastern division commander, said: “Police are not taking sides in any way over this incident, and we have followed up complaints made about the conduct of several people. “We carry out investigations and make decisions based on the information and evidence before us, regardless of who we are dealing with. This is a very sensitive situation, but we have to be objective in applying our powers and have to deal with the evidence we have.”

Mrs Newcomb said allegations had been made by the travellers and by Miss St Clair Pearce. It led to the police seizing two shotguns and ammunition that a local man, understood to be Stuart St Clair Pearce, Miss St Clair Pearce’s brother, had access to.

Police are considering revoking the firearms licence.

Mrs Newcomb said trespassing was a civil matter, but assured residents the force was taking every reasonable step to keep the situation peaceful and calm.

She added: “Our priority is always public safety, including the prevention of any potential breaches of the peace. Police involvement is about protecting life and property and we take that seriously. We are unbiased in applying the law.” The police were also criticised for taking 30 minutes to respond to Miss St Clair Pearce’s call for help.

But Mrs Newcomb said the response time was appropriate, considering the circumstances and the location of the farm.

The land the travellers moved on to, on April 21, is owned by Colchester Council, which is in the process of getting a county court eviction notice.

It is understood the travellers plan to leave the site before the hearing, to go to Wisbech Horse Fair, in Peterborough, on Sunday.