by Phil Hayes and Simon Finlay
A LACK of police response cars available at night is leaving tens of thousands of people vulnerable to crime.
That is the view of top defence lawyer, Hugh Roberts, who fears Kent Police's budget "has been skewed to pay for bureaucrats and not policemen."
The force has twice refused to answer Freedom of Information requests by this paper asking how many response cars are available at night.
And a local MP and a serving officer have accused Kent Police of a cover-up.
Whitfield-based Mr Roberts, of BKRW Solicitors, said: "I'm not anti-police at all. I'm actually entirely pro-police.
"But what I think has happened is that the non-operational budget has overtaken the operational budget which is why they have no cars at night."
The solicitor believes the East division – which includes Dover, Shepway, Thanet and Canterbury – is so big, Kent Police struggle to provide enough cover between 10pm and 6am, leaving rural areas particularly at risk.
"I think Sandwich and Whitfield and Deal are vulnerable," said Mr Roberts.
"People who live in Sandwich know there is nothing out there.
"My guess is you have a roving police car that will cover Dover and rural after certain hours – one car.
"Any other cars will come from either Thanet or Canterbury – maybe some from Folkestone.
"The East Kent police area runs from Lydd at one end to Sandwich at the other.
"You imagine if you're in Sandwich and one police car happened to be in Lydd. You'll have no chance."
A serving police officer, who asked not to be named, told this paper: "Everyone here knows there is inadequate numbers at night.
"It's a bad joke. So it comes as no surprise they are trying to cover it up.
"Morale at Bouverie House [Folkestone Police Station] is s*** and it's about time someone said so."
Dover and Deal MP, Charlie Elphicke, said: "You need the police to be open and honest about the problems, not trying to cover them up."
Kent Police's reason for refusing to say how many response cars were available at night was that "public confidence would be undermined by the disclosure of such information".