Bag searches and extra security brought in at Portsmouth council meeting

Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones, says she has received abuse in recent weeks
Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones, says she has received abuse in recent weeks

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SECURITY is being beefed up by the city council after ‘aggressive’ behaviour by protestors opposing cuts to domestic abuse services.

It comes as Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said that someone tried to spit at her and a man swore at her.

I have suffered horrific abuse at the hands of these people

Donna Jones

And the Tory councillor said she was sent ‘200 abusive tweets’ in what she believes was a co-ordinated campaign.

Now at the next full council on February 9, bags could be searched, demo materials will be seized and guards will be posted in the public gallery and in the Guildhall’s reception.

Cllr Jones told The News: ‘We’ve got loads of security.

‘I had someone spitting at me, I had a man run alongside me effing and blinding.

‘I had 200 abusive tweets in one weekend. I have suffered horrific abuse at the hands of these people.

‘I’ve never felt so threatened in my life since they’ve started their hate campaign.’

The council is to slash £180,000 from its early-intervention domestic abuse project but that will not come in until next year.

The Tories say they will mitigate any cut with a new scheme, while on Saturday it revealed it would be setting aside £50,000 a year to help fund domestic abuse services through council rent income.

Despite that welcome news, Councillor Will Purvis, member of the Liberal Democrats opposition, said of the added security: ‘That is ridiculous and unnecessary.

‘Protestors disagreeing with you, however vocally, is their right and an essential part of our democracy.

‘I saw no evidence of intimidation or abuse at the last council meeting, just a lot of people worried about the impacts of vicious cuts to services for the most vulnerable.’

One security guard is usually posted in the public gallery and one in the reception.

At the budget meeting on December 8 last year campaigners in the public gallery unfurled a banner reading ‘cutting dv (domestic violence) services kills women’ – forcing the meeting to be briefly paused.

Louise Wilders, the council’s director of community and communications said: ‘Everyone is welcome to come to meetings and it is important that those watching from the public gallery aren’t deterred from attending.’

A spokeswoman said no final decision has been made on security numbers.

A Hampshire police spokeswoman said: ‘We’re working with the council to make sure any future protests are peaceful.’

In relation to Cllr Jones’ complaint, she added: ‘A formal police report has not been made.’