Travellers

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Travellers

Travellers are protected from discrimination by the Race Relation Act 1976 and the Human Rights Act 1998, together with all groups who have a particular culture, language or values.

It is not illegal to roam and a person or persons cannot be prevented from roaming. When  an individual or group of individuals move onto a piece of property without first gaining the permission of the landowner, this becomes a matter of civil trespass between the landowner those people illegally camped on the land, and it is the responsibility of the landowner to deal with the encampment.

If you notice an unauthorised encampment you can report it to our PCSOs by dialling 101. They will then liaise with the Borough Council's Traveller Liaison Officer and the parish council, or the landowners. 

 

Unauthorised Encampments

An unauthorised encampment is when an individual or group of individuals move onto a piece of land that they do not own, without the permission of the landowner.

Unauthorised encampments are a matter of civil trespass between the landowner and the individual(s) illegally camped on the land, and as such the local Police have limited powers to move them on.

The Parish, Borough or County Council is only able to remove unauthorised encampments from council-owned land. If the encampment is not on council-owned land, the removal of the trespasser is the responsibility of the landowner. In Bramley we have some community owned land managed by trustees - The Clift Meadow Trust and the Village Hall Trust. The Parish Council works with these trusts to try to protect against unauthorised encampments and towards the eviction of any travellers who decide to settle on this land. We also show solidarity with private landowners and will assist with the liaison process where we can.

The council must follow a specific procedure when dealing with unauthorised encampments:

  • The process starts with confirming who owns the land being occupied.
  • If the land is council owned, welfare checks are carried out to identify if there are any welfare needs amongst individuals.
  • If there are no welfare needs the council can serve a direction to leave.
  • If, after the direction to leave is served and the individuals continue to remain on the land past the date given, the council will apply to the magistrates court for a possession order.
  • If the land is privately owned, the landowners can follow a legal process to evict the trespassers.

It usually takes between 10 and 14 working days to complete the eviction process for council owned land. This will depend on the circumstances of each individual case and the time taken to obtain a court hearing.

There are a number of factors that can cause delays to the eviction process. They include:

  • if welfare needs are identified
  • public holidays
  • obtaining a court date
  • weather (snow/water logging may hinder vehicle manoeuvre)

The court can refuse to grant the council an order to evict an unauthorised encampment if it believes there are unavoidable reasons, or it feels the council has failed to make adequate enquires about the general health and welfare of the individuals camped illegally.

After the unauthorised encampment has been moved on the council will make every effort to clean the site as soon as possible.

Your questions answered:

Why don't the police take the lead role in evicting the travellers from Bramley?

Trespass is not a criminal offence, it is a civil matter and as such the police are not responsible for dealing with the encampment.

The police work very closely with us to help manage unauthorised encampments and, when appropriate, will take action to deal with problems that may arise.

What legislation can be used for dealing with unauthorised encampments?

The main legislation that relates to unauthorised encampments is: Section 61, 62, 62A-E, 77 and 78 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994; the Human Rights Act 1998; and the Race Relations Act 1976.

This legislation is bound by various interpretations from the courts and guidance notes from the Government, which do not allow for racial discrimination or tolerate anti-social or criminal behaviour.

Legislation is set and amended by the Government, and we must follow all legislation which is set and have no authority to change it.

What powers can the council use?

Section 77 (of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) allows the council to require the unauthorised campers to leave. The request to leave is in the form of a direction to leave served by the council.

Before the council can use section 77 and serve a direction to leave it has a legal obligation to make welfare enquiries and take these into account prior to making the decision to use the power.

All decisions by the council must be proportionate and in accordance with the Human Rights Act. 

If the unauthorised campers remain on the land after the council has issued a direction to leave, the council may apply to the Magistrates' Court under Section 78 (of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) for a Court Order requiring the unauthorised campers to leave the site.

If the unauthorised campers do not leave the site after a court order has been served the council is authorised to remove the property on the site to a safe place.

Can the council move an unauthorised encampment immediately without using section 77 and 78?

While it may appear quicker to try and remove an unauthorised encampment without following relevant legal procedures such as conducting welfare enquires and serving directions to leave, this could lead to lengthy court action, considerable cost and public criticism and delay the eviction process.

Why does the council have to take into account the Race Relations Act and the Human Rights Act when dealing with Gypsies and Travellers?

Race relations legislation recognises Gypsies and Travellers as a specific racial group. With regards to human rights, the issue that council must take into account is whether the interference with Gypsy/Traveller family life and home is justified and proportionate.

What about Gypsies and Travellers who buy their own land?

Any individual who wants to live on a piece of land needs to obtain planning permission and Gypsies and Travellers are no different. If planning permission is not granted and caravans are set up on a piece of land, even if it is privately owned, then it can be classed as an unauthorised development and the local planning authority can deal with it under normal planning powers.

The History of Travellers in Hampshire

From Hampshire County Council's website

Thought to have originated in India in the 5th-6th Century, Gypsies and Travellers migrated out slowly developing a culture and identity of their own. Developing and speaking their own language known as Romany and crafting a culture to preserve their identity as they wandered, the original Gypsies and Travellers soon reached Europe and all along the way they were persecuted as outsiders and bought and sold as slaves.

Gypsies and Travellers have a long history in the UK and Hampshire and that historical journey has incorporated times of intense persecution and others of celebration and support.

Gypsies were first recorded in the UK in the 1500s and it is thought that the word "Gypsy" is a linguistic corruption of "Egyptian" as it was considered exotic and exciting to have originated from Egypt and visitors from this land were welcomed with their talents for art and divination and their dark ebony hair and eyes.

Gypsies and Travellers weren't always so welcome though and as is often the case blame was laid at the feet of Gypsies from everything from war to pickpocketing and everything inbetween! It was once a criminal offence to be a Gypsy in England, a crime punishable by death or exile!

Hampshire's Gypsy history and heritage is rich and varied. The county is fortunate enough to host the annual event known as Wickham Horse Fair, granted a royal charter in 1500s the fair attracts visitors from the Gypsy and Traveller communities, as well as the settled community, from all over the country and the county to sell horses and socialise and celebrate and enjoy.

Hampshire has seen Gypsies and Travellers involved in growing and marketing strawberries in and around Titchfield and Park Gate and the historical Gypsy communities in the New Forest, Swanmore, and Alresford continue to see a growth in the Traveller communities that live there and their involvement and participation in local activities.

Gypsies and Travellers have been a part of the UK and Hampshire for over five hundred years and in that time their presence and participation has enriched the life of our country.

New Travellers

New Travellers are the newest group of Travellers and is drawn from a group of people who have elected to leave the aspects of society they disdain and to live a freer, simpler life travelling.

Often travelling in converted buses and coaches as well as caravans, New Travellers are often more environmentally aware and focused and will make their values and concerns known at protests.

New Traveller culture is still evolving.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017