‘Serious’ fears for passenger safety as ‘40 to 50’ youths hurl stones at the Hayling Ferry
BOSSES behind a harbour ferry service fear one of their passengers could be ‘seriously hurt’ unless urgent police action is taken to crack down on anti-social youths.
The warning comes after Hayling Ferry workers faced a hellish Easter weekend marred by 40-strong mobs hurling stones at the boat as it went between Eastney and Hayling Island.
Not even MoD police could deter the thugs, with one stone reportedly missing an armed officer by inches as he stepped from a RIB boat on to the Eastney pontoon on Friday.
Colin Hill, the ferry’s skipper, said another stone thumped against a passenger’s backpack on Sunday afternoon but did not cause injury.
‘Somebody is going to get seriously hurt one day unless something is done,’ said Mr Hill.
‘It worries me so much that we’ve actually installed a dash cam this season.’
He added: ‘We tell some of our older passengers to come inside just in case it happens, because we never know when it will.'
James Clark, Langstone Harbour's deputy harbour master, said as many as ‘40 to 50’ youths were causing havoc on Friday, as temperatures rose to break Easter records.
He said the anti-social behaviour – which goes back to when the ferry was relaunched in 2016 – only gets worse when warm spells coincide with school holidays.
‘The scale of the problem is quite bad… you have to experience it in order to believe it,’ he said.
‘We try and respond to it the best we can but nothing works.
‘If something doesn't get done someone is going to get hit by one of these stones.’
Mr Clark said police are ‘no deterrent’ to the youths and has backed a call from Mr Hill for a dispersal order to be imposed on the ferry’s Eastney side, where youngsters gather.
A vocal campaigner for the ferry’s revival three years ago, Mark Coates, said the service itself could hang in the balance if no resolution is reached.
‘Without a shadow of a doubt [the behaviour] will impact on the future of the ferry because, on the most part, people do not take that route because it's convenient,’ he said.
‘They take it because it's more relaxing than getting stuck in traffic on the A27.
‘This behaviour completely destroys that experience.’
A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary confirmed police attended the Eastney side of the ferry twice on Saturday after back-to-back reports of stones being thrown.
They also verified a report of the same behaviour a day later.
‘The local neighbourhood policing team have been informed with a view to looking at tackling this behaviour longer term,' the spokesman said.
‘We would continue to encourage anyone who has witnessed anti-social behaviour in the area to report it to police on 101.’