Unauthorised encampments occur throughout the year and there is usually a rise in the amount during the summer period.
Until such time as there is adequate provision for the Travelling communities’ unauthorised encampments will continue.
They often involve an act of trespass which itself is not a criminal offence however there may be associated offences as a result, such as damage caused to gain access. All such matters should be reported to police so that they can be investigated.
Criminal Justice and Public Order Act
The police have a power to remove trespassers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJPOA). It says:
Where two or more persons are trespassing for the common purpose of residing, reasonable steps have been taken by the land owner to ask them to leave and they have refused to do so, they may be subject to police intervention to remove them if they have:
- Caused damage to the land or property forming part of the land
- Used threatening or abusive or insulting behaviour toward the land owner, their agent or family member
- Have between them six or more vehicles
The most senior officer at the scene will make a decision as to whether the use of section 61 is necessary or proportionate. In doing so they will consider the following guidance,
- Are communities deprived of local amenities or is there a significant impact upon the environment?
- Is there local disruption to the economy?
- Is there other significant disruption to the local community or environment?
- Is there a danger to life?
- Has there been a significant increase in local crime directly attributable to the encampment?
If so, in most cases the senior officer at the scene will issue a direction to leave under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.
The officer making the decision will record his or her rationale in relation to the decision made.
It should be noted that there are no powers available under section 61 to remove trespassers from the highway.
Essex Countywide Traveller Unit
Although Police have powers to remove trespassers they are not the lead agency in such matters and those powers are for emergency purposes only. The removal of trespassers is the responsibility of the land owner and when on Essex County Council highway land this will be managed by the Essex Countywide Traveller Unit (ECTU) at County Hall, Chelmsford.
Reporting unauthorised encampments
Reporting of unauthorised encampments should be done by calling 101 or using our online reporting service unless there is an emergency in which case you should call 999. An officer will attend and record the details of the encampment and make an assessment in relation to the use of police powers.
Essex Police will work in partnership with ETCU in relation to management of the unauthorised encampment.
Private land owners can appoint bailiffs to remove the trespassers and where required to do so Essex Police may provide officers to prevent a breach of the peace.
Trespassers on local authority land (subject to ECTU management) and ECC land will be managed by ECTU.
They will send an outreach worker to the scene who will obtain details and inform the occupants of the encampment that they are trespassers and ask them to leave if appropriate.
They will return the following day and serve a written direction to leave
If the trespassers do not comply with this request then the matter will be presented before the Magistrates court using section 77/78 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act and in most cases the court will issue a court order.
If not complied with ECTU will employ bailiffs to remove the trespassers. Essex police may assist in this operation in order to prevent a breach of the peace.
Contacting Essex Countywide Traveller Unit
The Essex Countywide Traveller Unit may be contacted either by email at [email protected] or by telephone on 0345 603 7624.