NEWS
21/05/2018 12:02 BST | Updated 21/05/2018 15:14 BST

Windsor Homeless Bus Seizure Sees Charity Consider Legal Action Against Police

More than £2,200 has been raised to fight to get the bus back.

Ark Project
The Ark Project's 10-sleeper bus was seized by police in Windsor ahead of Saturday's Royal wedding

A charity who took a bus to Windsor to house rough sleepers displaced by the Royal wedding are considering legal action to force the police to return it. 

The Ark Project’s bus was seized by Thames Valley Police on Thursday - the day of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding rehearsal – after first being removed from outside Windsor Castle. 

The Reading-based charity travelled to Windsor with the bus after rough sleepers were removed during security sweeps ahead of Saturday’s ceremony. 

But the bus was confiscated because the driver did not have the correct licence and £1,500 was sought for its return. 

PAUL ELLIS via Getty Images
A rough sleepers shelters in a bus stop in Windsor a day before Prince Harry married Meghan Markle

Ark Project’s founder, David Michael, said police believe a Category D licence is required to drive the vehicle as it is a “public service vehicle”, whereas he contends only a Category C licence is needed as it “isn’t a bus anymore”.

“It has got no seats so it isn’t a bus any more, it is a motorhome... it has ten beds a living room and a kitchen,” he told HuffPost.

Michael said while the charity has since raised enough money to have the vehicle released – as of Monday it had crowdfunded over £2,200 on a JustGiving page – police had told him it will not be returned until the authorities determine what licence is needed to drive it.

Michael fears that could take weeks, and is today seeking legal advice on whether the charity can challenge the seizure in court. 

Without the bus, the charity can’t provide beds for those who rely on its services, he said. “As a result of this the people we help are back on the streets... drug addicts, prostitutes... one girl is out selling herself again.”

Michael added: “You’d think the police would have some sympathy given they are always asking us to take in the homeless... it is fine when they’re banging on the door at 2 o’clock in the morning... they’re being complete assholes.”

Thames Valley Police said the vehicle was seized for being driven without the correct licence, “a man was reported for the offence and the vehicle was removed”, Inspector Gavin Biggs, Roads Policing officer, said.

“It will now be retained as part of an on-going investigation to ensure it is roadworthy,” he told HuffPost. 

“Once the investigation has been completed, we will be happy to release the vehicle, as long as the correct documentation is in place.

“Officers will execute their duty compassionately and discretely where appropriate.

“This is what Thames Valley police tried to do on this occasion.”

On Thursday, Michael, broadcasting from the scene of the seizure, expressed frustration that homeless people were being evicted from his bus. 

“We had homeless people on it at the time they seized it, they evicted them, now the homeless people have been evicted from the bus and have nowhere to stay again.”

Rough sleepers were said to have returned to the streets of Windsor on Sunday just 24 hours after thousands of royal watchers gathered to get a glimpse of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

On Monday police returned belongings rough sleepers had voluntarily handed over to them to store until after the wedding. 

Windsor’s rough sleepers were a controversial issue in the lead-up to the Royal wedding after the council’s Conservative leader, Simon Dudley, wrote to police urging them to use their powers to move them on.