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Council supports possible new law to tackle unauthorised encampments

28th February 2020
Posted by Johnny Jenkins

Basildon Council has approved an official response to the Home Office, supporting possible new legal powers for the Police to move on, disperse, or remove unauthorised developments and illegal encampments.

The submission replies to central government’s call for consultations with local authorities, police forces, Gypsy, Roma, and Travelling communities and the public about criminalising certain acts of trespass.

Chairman of the External Affairs, Partnerships and Liaison Committee, Cllr Aidan McGurran said:

“The council’s submission makes it clear that our aim is balancing fair and equal treatment for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, while also respecting the interests of the wider community.

“Amending the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act to broaden the criteria for the police to be able to direct people away from unauthorised sites is a position which we support in principle.

“Our detailed submission also calls on the Government to make a national assessment of Traveller communities’ needs.

“It’s no use having increased legal powers without careful consideration of traveller movements and whether enough authorised Travelling community sites exist nationally as part of this process.

“There is a lot of talk from some quarters about the “Irish option” but what is often not acknowledged is that Irish Government ensured there was sufficient temporary and transit pitches made available to allow the system to work.”

The submission notes:

“the council believes that Basildon borough is a tolerant community but that illegal encampments are blighting the lives of both the settled community and the majority of law-abiding members of our Gypsy and Traveller community, whose collective reputations are unjustly tarnished by the illegal actions of a lawless minority.”

Last year the Home Secretary announced a review would be undertaken by the Home Office to determine whether it should criminalise the act of setting up an encampment, and seek public consultation on powers for dealing with unauthorised developments and encampments.

The review by the Home Office is ongoing with consultations closing on 05 March 2020.

To read the council’s submission click