Gypsies and Travellers
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 repealed the statutory duty on local authorities to provide sites for travellers and Gypsies.
Current legislation states that provision of such sites is principally a matter for the Gypsy and traveller community. In order to get planning permission and licences, they need to apply for them in the usual way.
It is illegal for travellers and Gypsies to camp on land, if they do not have the owners' permission, planning permission and the appropriate licence.
The Council will only deal with unauthorised camping on land owned by the Council, or privately owned land when requested to do so by the owner.
Information is given below on the possible actions available to the Council, private landowners and the Police.
Unauthorised camping on Council land
Can the Council remove Gypsies/Travellers from their land immediately?
No. The Government has advised that when Gypsies/Travellers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.
Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 the Council has powers to serve a 'Direction to Move' notice on any encampment which involves vehicles.
However, before the Council can do this it must carry out social enquiries to ensure that human rights are not affected, eg where someone is ill or pregnant. If there is a case to permit a person to stay then this must be allowed.
Under normal circumstances the Direction specifies a time period in which the encampment must be moved, within a maximum of ten days. Often Gypsies/Travellers move before the social enquiries are completed.
Can the Court refuse to grant the Council an order to move Gypsies/Travellers on?
Yes. If there is an unavoidable reason for the Gypsies/Travellers to stay on the site, or if the Court believes the Council have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the Gypsies/Travellers.
Unauthorised camping on Private land
Landowners are expected to take reasonable precautions to prevent encampments. If they repeatedly fail to do so the Council will not use its powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to serve a 'Direction to Move'.
Does the Council have a duty to move Gypsies/Travellers if they are camped without the landowner's permission?
No. If Gypsies/Travellers are camped on Council land, we can evict them but if they are on private land, it is the landowner's responsibility.
What if the landowner lets them stay on the land?
Unless the landowner has already obtained planning permission for a caravan site or is a farmer and the Gypsies/Travellers are helping with fruit picking etc., then the landowner could be in breach of the Planning Acts and the Acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites.
What can landowners do?
Talk to the Gypsies/Travellers to see if a leaving date can be agreed.
Take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for the Gypsies/Travellers eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the Court hearing.
What can the Police do?
The Police will visit all sites reported to them. In certain circumstances (for example, where the Gypsies/Travellers have with them six or more vehicles), officers may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
The duty of the Police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of Trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibilities of the landowner and not the Police.
Last updated: 16th February 2012