Hands of Friendship across the Channel

14 Jun 2019

With PC Lewis O'Mahoney Sgt Steve ApplewhiteThere have always been close ties between Brittany in the northwest of France and Cornwall in the southwest of Great Britain. 

Both known as Celtic regions, with shared history, culture, heritage, Brythonic language, religious beliefs and trading relationships, people have travelled freely from one to the other for well over a thousand years, working and living in each place. Many places and indeed Saints' names are common in each, and to this very day there is barely a town or village in Cornwall which is not twinned with one in Brittany.

Newquay is one of these, and is twinned with Dinard. Both are seaside towns where the seasonal populations increase enormously. Dinard hosts an international film festival, and Newquay has been the setting for a surprising number of films and TV productions.

Those ties exist between the police services as well, and May 2019 saw three officers from the Police Municipale de Dinard, France, spent time in Newquay, Cornwall with the police there.

What can only be described as an action-packed programme of events was drawn up for the three guest officers by Superintendent Ian Drummond-Smith, Police Commander for East Cornwall, and a member of the Cornwall Branch of the International Police Association.

Dinard Officers Alan Alstres, David Hamoniaux and Jacky Ruault commenced their visit with a briefing and tour of Cornwall Police Headquarters in Bodmin (twinned with  Le Relecq-Kerhuon in Brittany), and the following day joined front line officers in Newquay for patrol duties in town. They witnessed arrests for criminal damage and drunkenness together with subsequent custody procedures.

A break from police duties on the Sunday allowed for the three guests to be collected from Newquay and taken to Geevor Mine in Pendeen, set in the far west of Cornwall, where they were joined by serving and retired police officers of the Cornwall IPA Branch for a guided tour of the tin mine heritage centre, including a trip underground and a pasty lunch. Colin Gameson, Chair of the Cornwall IPA Branch, presented Cornwall IPA Badges, IPA Challenge Coins and miniature miners' hard hats to the three visitors.

Monday saw the visitors fact finding with fellow emergency services in the shape of the Newquay lifeboat, then travel to the nearby RAF St. Mawgan to find out more of the work of the HMCG helicopter air sea rescue service and the Cornwall air ambulance.With PC Sheri Williams Fistral Beach Newquay

The following day, Alan, David and Jacky travelled to Devon & Cornwall Police Headquarters in Exeter, where they met the Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, then took in the firearms training facility and range. All officers in Dinard are routinely armed and also equipped with stab vests and CS spray, but 'tasers' have not yet been introduced.  The guests learnt about the Spit & Bite Guards (SBG) recently introduced by Devon & Cornwall Police, to safely cover the faces of prisoners who spit or bite at officers, a significant problem in the UK. The French officers were very interested in the equipment and took a sample SBG back to France to consider. A visit to the Force Control Room concluded a busy day. 

Before returning home across 'La Manche', a visit to Truro Crown Court allowed the guest officers to see something of an ongoing robbery trial and to meet with Resident Judge, His Honour Judge Simon Carr. 

With spare time in the programme filled with meals and other social events, the visit was a huge success, and it was inspiring to see serving and retired police officers come together as members of the police family and to give the three visitors such a varied and packed programme of activities.

Speaking of the exchange, Assistant Chief of Police Municiple de Dinard, Alan Alstres, whose partner is a Newquay lady and former Special Constable, whom he met as part of this annual exchange some years ago, and with good command of English, said 'We thank everyone who has worked hard to make this a great visit, serving and retired police officers. We all face the same problems in our work, and although there are many differences in our judicial systems, the tasks are identical. There are strong connections between us, and may these long continue'.

Thanks must go to Superintendent Ian Drummond-Smith for organising the programme, and to all those who played a role in making the visit a resounding success.

Mike Chappell, IPA Cornwall, UK