CamdenNewJournal

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Teens stabbed as crowds were forced out of park in Primrose Hill

Should the gates stay up or come down?

06 August, 2021 — By Tom Foot

Gates at the edge of the park

TWO boys were stabbed in a mobile phone robbery as swathes of young people were forced to leave Primrose Hill on Friday. Officers were called to Bridge Approach as crowds were exiting the park just before 10pm.

Police said two males had been stabbed “by a group of around six other 16-year-olds”, followed by an attempt to commit the robbery of a phone.

There have been no arrests. Cordons went up at the bridge, while Gloucester Avenue and King Henry’s Road were shut, as police introduced “Section 60” measures which allow officers to more freely use stop and search – and a power they can use when they believe “serious violence may take place”.

The incident comes as the Met and the Royal Parks authorities consider whether to continue locking up the park to the public after August 31.

Temporary gates have been set up at the entrances following complaints from residents about late-night crowds assembling on the hill during lockdowns.

Supporters of the gates say the measures have worked but more needs to be done to stop the park becoming a destination for gatherings and drug-dealing.

Critics of the park closures say they are pushing so many young people out of the park at 10pm that it has created flashpoints in a peaceful neighbourhood.

Long-standing resident Phil Cowan said: “It’s a complex problem. If you asked me two years ago, should Primrose Hill be closed, I would have railed at the idea. I can see the point of view about civil liberties. But the way the park has been used has changed significantly and something needs to be done.”

He added: “The gates have actually worked. Generally, there has been a lot less anti-social behaviour and the effect on the community has generally been positive. The park not being cleared would create further problems. I was out there at 9.45pm on Friday and saw people being cleared out the park.

“They are going down the high street and congregating on the iron bridge while they decide what to do next with their evening. I can get why they are disgruntled. It’s quite a traumatic thing to be scooped up by police on a night out.”

The park on a clear night [RAJIV BHUTTAN]

Mr Cowan said he believed the gates system should be extended “for a couple of months or so” and that notices should be put up in tube stations so young people know the rules before they arrive.

But Amy McKeown, who is heading the campaign to keep the park free from restrictions, has written to Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer and councillors this week demanding the temporary measures are stopped by the end of the month.

“The trial period of closure has been divisive and negative for the local community and detrimental to the local area, displacing noise and people onto the surrounding streets and railway bridge,” her email said.

On Tuesday, Ms McKeown, from the Keep Primrose Hill Open group, told the New Journal: “We believe had the park not been closed, we would not see these issues.

“Moving people is causing all this disruption on the bridge – but people aren’t joining the dots. Closing the park will not solve the issues we are seeing anyway.”

Police have started clearing the park from 10pm on weekends but have warned they do not have the operational capacity to do so forever.

In May this year, footage of a street brawl on Bridge Approach revealed a bare-chested man being kicked on the ground by several attackers after being felled by a flying drop-kick.

Many thought the closure of clubs and bars during Covid lockdown was the reason so many young people are going to Primrose Hill on the weekends at night. But despite venues reopening, young people are continuing to gather.

The park gates were initially introduced as a temporary “circuit breaker” in a bid to stop the new weekend trend. A Met statement added: “Police were called at approximately 10pm to reports of a group of people fighting in Bridge Approach. Officers attended along with London Ambulance Service. Two 16-year-old boys were found with stab injuries. They were taken to hospital where their conditions were assessed as non-life-threatening.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting CAD 7148/30Jul.

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