PROPOSALS to consult on tough new powers to tackle unauthorised traveller encampments have been welcomed by both Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Philip Seccombe and West Mercia’s John Campion.
Home Secretary and Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid last week set out draft measures aimed at making it easier for police officers to intervene and remove travellers from land they should not be on.
The Home Secretary will also consider making it a criminal offence to set up such camps, which are currently defined in law as trespassing, a civil matter.
The Home Office will also consult on proposals to amend the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to:
1) Lower the number of vehicles needed to be involved in an illegal camp before police can act from six to two.
2) Give the police powers to direct travellers to sites in neighbouring local authorities. Currently they can only direct trespassers to sites in the same area.
3) Allow officers to remove trespassers from camping on or beside a road.
4) Increase the time – from three months to a year – during which travellers are not allowed to return to a site they have already been removed from.
In addition, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced it will provide local authorities with practical and financial support to handle unauthorised encampments.
Welcoming the move Mr Seccombe said: “There is no doubt that unauthorised traveller encampments continue to cause considerable concern and disruption for residents and the business community.
“Providing additional powers to move on encampments and lowering the number of vehicles needing to be involved in an illegal camp before police can act will help broaden the toolkit police and local authorities have at their disposal.
“The real nub of the issue, however, is the lack of suitable stopping sites for travellers, which is very much a two-fold problem; a smaller supply of legal places to stop inevitably lead to greater numbers of unauthorised encampments, but also means there are fewer places to which the police can use their powers of redirection.
“The proposals therefore may be helpful in the shorter term, but the ultimate aim must be to encourage the development of greater numbers of transit sites in all areas.”