Everyone has rights, including Travellers/Gypsies and people whose land is being used for unauthorised camping.
Gypsies and Travellers are protected from discrimination by the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Human Rights Act 1998, together with all ethnic groups who have a particular culture, language or values. Please see below for further information.
Does the Council have a duty to move gypsies/travellers when they are camped without the landowner’s permission?
No. If gypsies/travellers are camped on Council land, the Council can evict them. If they are on private land, it is usually the landowner’s responsiblity. The Government has advised that when gypsies/travellers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.
If gypsies/travellers camp on private land, what can the landowner do?
Talk to them to see if a leaving date can be agreed. Take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedures Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the Court hearing.
What if the landowner decides to let them stay on the land temporarily?
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 Planning Acts and the Acts dealing with the licensing of caravan sites. You may wish to seek further advice from the Council Environmental Health section, who deal with illegal encampments.
If the landowner fails to take the appropriate action to remove the gypsies/travellers, what will the Council do?
If the landowner is in breach of any planning or license requirements, then the Council will take proceedings against the landowner to require the removal of the illegal encampment.
I have seen gypsies/travellers camping on the side of the road and sometimes on parks or other Council-owned land, what can the Council do in these cases?
If the gypsies/travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable. The Council will consider each case on its merits. In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the gypsies/travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause the public health problems. This sometimes means that refuse collection facilities may be provided for this purpose.
Can the Council remove gypsies/travellers from their land immediately?
No, the Council must show that the gypsies/travellers are on the land without consent. They must make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children’s education and ensure that the Human Rights Act 1998 has been fully complied with. They must also follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of land and details of the illegal encampment that will enable them to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the Courts to order the gypsies/travellers to leave the site.
How long will it take for the gypsies/travellers to be removed?
This will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. The Council will need to take account of the issues outlined above as well as how soon they can obtain a Court hearing date.
Can the Court refuse to grant the Council an order to move the gypsies/travellers on?
Yes. If there is an unavoidable reason for the gypsies/travellers to stay on the site, or if the Court believes that the Council have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the gypsies/travellers. The Council must try to find out this information before going to Court.
What can the police do about gypsy/traveller sites?
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. These powers will only be used in situations of serious criminality or public disorder not capable of being addressed by normal criminal legislation and in which the trespassory occupation of the land is a relevant factor. The Police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained to avoid using Section 61 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts. 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. The Police will investigate all criminal and Public Order offences.