A CANDIDATE to be Avon and Somerset's next Police and Crime Commissioner has hit out at policing of the Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol - which saw a controversial statue of a slave owner torn down and thrown in the city's harbour.

Conservative Mark Shelford has hit out at the decision by officers in the city not to intervene in the protest, a decision they say was based on maintaining order and not risking an escalation of violence.

Mr Shelford said: “The pulling down of the statue of Colston in Bristol on Sunday was a shocking example of what can happen when the police effectively surrender control of our streets.

"This must never happen again in Avon and Somerset.

"People in towns and parishes across our region must all feel safe and not threatened by the possibility of rampaging mobs who destroy any or all public property to which they object."

He did, however, support people's right to protest, but said those against statues glorifying slave traders should 'campaign for its removal'.

“Demonstrations are part of a democratic society," he added. "But so too is respecting the democratic process.

"The way to deal with a statue of someone you disapprove of is to campaign for its removal, not take the law into your own hands. That way leads to utter lawlessness.

“What we saw on Sunday in Bristol was the wanton, unlawful destruction of public property, and this cannot be tolerated. The perpetrators should be found and prosecuted."

Somerset County Gazette:

ANGER: Mark Shelford

He added: “On Sunday, tactical decision-making on the ground by senior police was poor, and leadership from the middle to the top of the police was weak.

"There needs to be a complete overhaul of how these types of events are policed, or many people in Avon and Somerset will start to lose faith in the ability of the police leadership to deliver what is needed – safe, secure, law-abiding communities.

“It is also important the Police and Crime Commissioner is seen to perform her role with vigour – paramount in which is holding the Chief Constable to account."

READ MORE: PCC backs policing of protest which saw statue thrown in harbour

Earlier this week, current PCC Sue Mountstevens backed the decision not to intervene, saying she supported 'the approach of Avon and Somerset Police and how the officers on duty handled the matter'.

She added: "Superintendent Andy Bennett, and the command team in charge of policing the protest on the day, carefully considered all the implications of sending in officers at that moment to make arrests, probably requiring them to use force, and the escalation of tensions that could be caused as a result.

"I am confident that, after the police assessed the circumstances, they not only made the right decision but they also did the right thing to prevent any escalation of tension into violence, injury or worse."

Somerset County Gazette:

GONE: The statue of Edward Jenner being thrown in Bristol harbour