Today, Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) release the findings of an illuminating report which indicates only a small percentage of police bodies are in favour of the Home Office proposals to criminalise unauthorised encampments. The research found an overwhelming 93% of police bodies who submitted to the consultation and shared their response with FFT called for better site provision for Gypsies and Travellers as a solution to unauthorised encampments.
FFT submitted freedom of information (FOI) requests to all Police Forces and Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales, as well as the National Police Chief Council (NPCC) and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) to view the responses of police bodies to the Government’s 2019 consultation ‘Strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments’.
From the responses shared with FFT, only 21.7% of police bodies agreed with the Home Office proposals to criminalise unauthorised encampments; 93.7% of police bodies called for site provision as the solution to unauthorised encampments; and only 18.7% of respondents agreed with the Home Office proposals to give police power to seize vehicles of those on unauthorised encampments.
The findings clearly demonstrate that only a small percentage of police respondents are in favour of criminalising trespass or strengthening of existing powers, stressing that this will be ineffective unless there is increased site provision. The consultation closed in March 2020 and the Government is expected to release their own results on the consultation later this autumn.
Following the release of the report, Abbie Kirkby, Advice and Policy Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers said:
“The hostile approach taken by this Government towards Gypsies and Travellers must stop. We have seen huge opposition to these proposals, opposition not only from the police but from across society in recognition of the implications for human rights and civil liberties. The Government have failed Gypsy and Traveller communities – 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.”
Speaking about the personal impacts of the proposed powers, Martha Ostick shared:
“You never feel like you can get settled when you live on the road, it’s impossible to feel grounded and that impacts every part of your life, you are in the hands of the authorities and it doesn’t feel safe. This new legislation makes you feel like you’re not included in society, that you’re a criminal. We don’t need more police powers, we need negotiated stopping so you can plan your year, get work, get to school, be part of the same society as everyone else.”
Voicing concerns over additional police powers without more sites, Chloe said:
“I think the Government should be listening more to the police, the ones that do want to help the Traveller community. They are out there every day, and they see exactly what’s going on – the impacts police powers have on families. The police don’t need more powers. More powers will make life much harder for people who are homeless. If the government authorised more sites it would be a better solution to the problems. Gypsies and Travellers haven’t got any say now, if the police got more powers, if feels like there will be no hope.”
Speaking about the research findings, a spokesperson for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Police Association (GRTPA) said:
“The GRTPA are absolutely opposed to the Government recommendations to criminalise trespass and the stronger police powers that have been drafted. This proposed legislation criminalises a traditional way of life for our community and will only seek to marginalise Gypsies and Travellers further. We believe the solution is, and has always been adequate site provision across the country, inclusive of transit sites and negotiated stopping. Gypsies and Travellers are recognised ethnic groups and our nomadic way of life is part of our culture, therefore the legislation would be in conflict with Human Rights and Equality legislation and would only further antagonise the awful bias and discrimination we suffer daily.”
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.
Sami McLaren, Communications Officer
Tel: 07436 228910 Email: [email protected]
‘Police renew calls for more Gypsy and Traveller sites in opposition to the criminalisation of unauthorised encampments’. View report.
Respond to the consultation on police powers. View the campaign.
FFT response to Home Office announcement of consultation on criminalising trespass. Read here.
Police call for more Traveller sites, not the criminalisation of Gypsy and Traveller families. Read here.