Under a smokescreen of purported concern over squatting of residential dwellings, the Government in their Legal Aid Bill are deliberately targeting Gypsies and Travellers.
Hidden within the details of the Legal Aid Bill are provisions that will ensure that the vast majority of Gypsies and Travellers who live in caravans and who need advice on eviction and planning matters will be denied Legal Aid. The Gypsy and Traveller population in England and Wales suffer from much prejudice and discrimination from society at large. They are disadvantaged in terms of health and education. The continual failure by central and local government to address the provision of sites for Gypsies and Travellers has resulted in a situation where some 25% of the population are homeless. Now, the chances of homeless Gypsies and Travellers establishing a lawful site for themselves are being further undermined by this Bill, which will deny them Legal Aid in planning cases (which are simply not mentioned in the Bill) and in eviction cases (see Schedule 1 Part 1 paragraph 27(9) and Schedule 1 Part 2 paragraph 5 of the Bill). Significantly, although these provisions will have a disproportionate impact upon Gypsies and Travellers, the Bill’s Equality Impact Assessment does not mention Gypsies and Travellers at all.
The loss of Legal Aid in these cases will undoubtedly lead to an increase in unauthorised sites, which will be contrary to the interests of both homeless Gypsies and Travellers and the settled communities. We hope Parliament will strike out these disastrous proposals.
The Campaign is supported by Lord Avebury and Baroness Whitaker. The other members of the campaign include:
The Association of Chief Police Officers
Bramwell Browne Odedra solicitors
Community Law Partnership solicitors
Davies Gore Lomax solicitors
Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group
Friends Families and Travellers
Garden Court Chambers
Irish Traveller Movement in Britain
Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange
London Gypsy and Traveller Unit
National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups
New Traveller Association
South West Law solicitors
UK Association of Gypsy Women
–LEGAL AID BILL: ADVICE AND REPRESENTATION TO GYPSIES AND TRAVELLERS. BRIEFING SUMMARY by Community Law Partnership
–LEGAL AID, SENTENCING AND PUNISHMENT OF OFFENDERS BILL AND GYPSIES AND TRAVELLERS by Community Law Partnership