Police accused Trump resort of getting access law wrong

Private security staff hired by Donald Trump to guard his Aberdeenshire golf course hid their handcuffs after concerns were raised by police.

Internal emails and reports released by Police Scotland also reveal that the police were concerned that the Trump organisation failed to understand Scotland’s land reform law giving the public the right to roam across golf courses.

These new insights into the sometimes difficult relationship between police and the controversial Trump resort at Menie on the north east coast have prompted renewed attacks by the US President’s critics. He acted like a “disruptive child”, said one.

Police Scotland have released 49 files of documents on its dealings with Trump International Golf Links Scotland (TIGLS) since 2009. All the files were provided in response to a request under freedom of information law in June 2016, and are today being published by The Ferret.

One file contained an email in March 2010 from Kevin McKay, the owner of a local private security firm called IPPS Security hired to guard Trump’s golf course. It disclosed that the police had expressed concern about the firm’s use of handcuffs.

McKay wrote to the police saying that his staff had been told that handcuffs “will only be used in a life-threatening situation and they have to be kept covert (out of the public eye)”. He added: “This should eliminate the issues you raised with me.”

Another file included an extract from an internal police report prior to 2012 accusing TIGLS of not understanding the 2003 Land Reform (Scotland) Act. “TIGLS and their representatives have not yet grasped the implications of the legislation,” said the report.

“Their belief is that the land is private and that they will be able to restrict access unconditionally. This is obviously not the case and this is a potential area of conflict that will need to be managed diplomatically.”

Police also released a letter they sent to TIGLS executive vice-president, Sarah Malone, in June 2011 on the eve of a planned protest march. TIGLS was considering preventing access to the site, the letter said.

The police pointed out that entering land without criminal intent was not an offence under ancient trespass law, and drew Malone’s attention to the 2003 land reform legislation. They also highlighted the provisions of the 1998 Human Rights Act allowing freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Other documents show that police conducted 263 patrols of TIGLS’s Menie estate between May 2009 and December 2012. TIGLS made four complaints of vandalism and three of theft between 2010 and 2013, which the police say were fully investigated and closed.

Aberdeenshire Green councillor and veteran Trump critic, Martin Ford, described the use of handcuffs by Trump’s private security firm as “very alarming”. Trump was indifferent to accepted norms and rules, he argued.

“Whether it’s planning or access rights, Mr Trump’s attitude is that the rules don’t apply to him. He’s like a particularly badly behaved disruptive child,” Ford said

“Mr Trump’s decisions seem to be solely based on him. There is no sign that the consequences for others, or even their rights, are considered at all.”

The Montrose filmmaker, Antony Baxter, was arrested and handcuffed by police along with a colleague when he was filming a documentary about the golf course in 2010. He labeled the relationship between TIGLS and the police as “alarmingly cosy”.

He said: “It’s concerning Trump’s security firm was simply allowed to hide its handcuffs. Why did it need them? And the police say Trump’s ignorance of right to roam legislation should be handled diplomatically? I fail to see why.”

Baxter accused the police of not understanding Scotland’s access legislation. He cited the case last year, reported by The Ferret, in which a 61-year old woman, Rohan Beyts, was charged by police for peeing in the sand dunes at the golf course, after being caught short during a walk.

The recreation group, Ramblers Scotland, crossed swords with Trump on access rights during the 2008 public inquiry into the golf development. “These revelations are staggering, showing that Mr Trump and his team simply failed to grasp the access laws,” the group’s director, Brendan Paddy.

“People in Scotland have the right to cross the country’s 550 golf courses, including virtually all golf course land except the greens, as long as they do so responsibly. These are vital, practical rights – particularly as so many courses line Scotland’s wonderful rivers and coastlines.”

He added: “If the Trump team’s preparations had been more thorough, they would have learned that these rights are not only enshrined under law, but accepted and adhered to by the vast majority of people in Scotland – including walkers, cyclists, horse-riders and landowners.”

Kevin McKay from IPPS Security could not be reached. TIGLS did not respond to repeated requests to comment.

There was a previous report on the Trump organisation’s difficult relationship with the police in 2011. The golf course had been under attack from extreme fringe groups “intent on vandalising our site”, said a TIGLS spokeswoman at the time. “After a spat of serious incidents, we asked for police intervention and assistance.”

In 2013 when asked to comment on accusations of police bias in favour of the Trump organisation, its executive vice president in New York, George Sorial, said. “This is absolutely pathetic, untrue and completely without merit.”

A version of this story was published in the Sunday Herald on 29 January 2017.

Photo thanks to Sagaciousphil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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