Today, Friends Families and Travellers (FFT) have released a damning report which found that the overwhelming majority of police responses to the Government’s 2018 consultation on unauthorised encampments do not want more eviction powers. Despite this, on the 3rd of November 2019 the Home Secretary announced a fresh consultation on more eviction powers for police.
FFT contacted all police forces, all police and crime commissioners and three police bodies in England to find out what views police expressed in the 2018 consultation. They found that 75% of police responses indicated that current police powers were sufficient and/or proportionate, 84% of police responses did not support the criminalisation of unauthorised encampments and 65% of police responses said that lack of site provision was the real problem.
The Home Office’s proposed changes to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, announced on the 3rd of November, are to lower the number of vehicles needing to be involved in an unauthorised encampment before police powers can be exercised; to enable the police to remove trespassers from land that forms part of the highway (which local authorities already have the power to do); to increase the period of time in which trespassers directed from land would be unable to return from 3 months to a year; and to permit the police to direct trespassers to suitable authorised sites located in neighbouring local authority areas.
One response to the consultation, from Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner said,
“The only effective way to tackle the growing problem of unauthorised encampments is to ensure there is adequate transit and permanent provisions nationally. This must be a priority and will require revisiting current planning legislation.”
Another response to the consultation from the National Police Chiefs Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said:
“The lack of sufficient and appropriate accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers remains the main cause of incidents of unauthorised encampment and unauthorised development by these groups.”
Speaking about the report, Abbie Kirkby, Advice and Policy Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers said,
“The evidence we have collected shows that the Home Office are deliberately ignoring police views on unauthorised encampments. The timing of the consultation announcement makes it clear that the Government’s motive is to use Gypsies and Travellers to gather votes at election time.
There is no point in bringing in more laws which tell Travellers where they can’t go when you aren’t telling them where they can go. The Home Secretary’s proposals will send police on a wild goose chase and make the lives of roadside Gypsies and Travellers a misery.”
Notes for Editor
About Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)
Friends, Families and Travellers is a leading national charity that works on behalf of all Gypsies, Roma and Travellers regardless of ethnicity, culture or background.
Sarah Sweeney, Policy and Communication Manager
Tel: 01273 234 038 Email: [email protected]
‘Police oppose criminalising unauthorised encampments and call for more sites’. View here.
‘FFT response to Home Office announcement of Home Office consultation on criminalising trespass’. View here.
Home Office announcement, ‘Government consults on new police powers to criminalise unauthorised encampments’. View here.
FFT response to 2018 consultation on unauthorised encampments findings. View here.
MHCLG and Home Office announcement, ‘Government announces plans to tackle illegal traveller sites’. View here.