POLICE have responded to criticisms of the way they handled an unauthorised horse and trap race on the A33, saying “ultimately these are the difficult decisions policing has to make every day”.

Officers attended the event on Saturday and Sunday as hundreds Travellers descended on the road, which runs between Basingstoke and Winchester, for horse and trap races.

The racing took place for much of Saturday until around 4.30pm and then restarted Sunday morning until mid-morning.

A spokesperson said: “We know there has been a lot of interest in our decision to close the A33 due to an unauthorised horse and trap racing event on the A33 this weekend. The closure was put in place to ensure the safety of motorists and the general public, as well as those in attendance.

"Whilst at times the road was closed entirely, for the majority of the time, and when safe to do so, we were able to partially open the road to allow traffic through.

“This type of action is not exclusive to this event, as with any large gatherings we have seen across the country this past year, policing always has to balance whether allowing an event to happen, even if illegal, is safer than the risks of shutting it down.

“We accept that this caused some disruption to the road network, but we are doing all we can to manage the situation.

“We understand that people will have an opinion on whether this was the right action to take but ultimately these are the difficult decisions policing has to make every day.

“Our officers have been capturing evidence to investigate deal with any offences not dealt with at the time, and a 33-year-old man from London was arrested on suspicion of drug driving on Saturday (May 1). We also seized three vehicles as part of our policing response and we will continue to investigate any other matters that arise.

“This is an illegal sporting event, and we do not support or facilitate it; however our primary role as the police is to protect the lives and safety of those that we serve. In order to do this the decision was made to put lane closures in place on the A33 and this was done for road safety reasons only.”

Other stories about the takeover of the A33:

Day 2 (Sunday) of the disruption

Day 1 (Saturday)

Dashcam footage of the blocked A33 with Travellers, their vehicles and ponies

The public questioning the police stance in letting the event carry on