Number: D0706 Date Published: 17 September 2021 Version 11 – September 2021
1.0 Summary of Changes
This procedure has been updated on its yearly review as follows:
Within Section 3.1 operating times for ECTU changed to 0900-1700 hrs;
Within Section 3.1 clarity given re ECTU acting on behalf of the landowner or Local Authority where encampment is on Highway Land etc.;
Additional sentence added within section 3.5 clarifying “When a crime has been committed, for example damage to gain entry, this must be recorded separately, and an investigation opened on Athena”;
Last bullet point within section 3.6 removed (regarding significant increate in local crime which is attributable to unauthorised encampment).
2.0 What this Procedure is about
This procedure details how Essex Police will respond to unauthorised encampments on land by people intending to reside on that land without the permission of the landowner.
The procedure will:
Not be used to deal with unlawful development, whereby individuals purchase and occupy land, with or without planning permission. Such matters will be referred to the local council or unitary authority. Advice can also be sought from the Essex Countywide Traveller Unit;
Not be used to deal with squatting in residential premises - Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 creates an offence of squatting in a residential building;
Not be used to deal with illegal occupation of unoccupied buildings, i.e. squatting; such matters will be dealt with by the owner through the civil courts UNLESS there are offences in relation to aggravated trespass (s68 CJPOA).
Working with our partners we will create safer communities and promote community cohesion by:
Building confidence in all the communities we serve;
Protecting the public against crime and anti-social behaviour;
Gathering intelligence and assessing the effects of police and partner actions on local communities.
This procedure will ensure a consistent approach across all partner agencies in dealing with unauthorised encampments. It complies with the NPCC Guidance on Unauthorised Encampments (2018) and the findings published in ‘Common Ground’ (2006) by the Commission for Racial Equality.
Local authorities, including Essex Police, have a responsibility to act in a manner that fairly balances the rights and freedoms of all people concerned including Gypsies, Travellers and other local residents, ensuring any decisions are proportionate and fair in the circumstances.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to treat an individual less favourably on the grounds of colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins.
Following a nomadic lifestyle is lawful and is a culture that is recognised and protected through legislation. Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are protected under the Equality Act 2010.
Where occupants at unauthorised encampments are victims of crime or anti-social behaviour, they must be given access to services in the usual way. If there is a perception that the incident is racially motivated then the matter should be dealt with in line with B 1402 Procedure – Hate Crime.
There is no legal right to trespass and the law provides a wide range of powers to remove people who are unlawfully on land. The establishment of any unauthorised encampment can raise many concerns with the landowner and neighbouring members of the settled or business community. Any decision to evict must be lawful, necessary and proportionate if it is to comply with the legislation outlined above.
It is essential that any police response properly takes account of the behaviour of all involved, whether this is criminal, anti-social or nuisance behaviour, in combination with any impact on the landowner and the local community.
The Local Authority should normally be the lead agency in managing and evicting unauthorised encampments. Police intervention should be discretionary and usually only be applied in circumstances where urgent action is required.
Police powers to evict people from unauthorised encampments are embedded within Sections 61 and 62 A-E, CJPOA 94.
These powers are discretionary and can be used where behaviour or conduct is considered to be unlawful, inappropriate, or where the impact of an encampment on others is deemed unacceptable. This position is consistent with all other areas of enforcement within the community.
In managing unauthorised encampments officers should be aware that in Essex there are a lack of pitches on authorised sites, with long waiting lists and there are currently no designated ‘transit sites’; therefore, 62 A-E, CJPOA 94 currently cannot be utilised in this County.
Compliance with this procedure and any governing policy is mandatory.
3.0 Detail the Procedure
3.1 Essex Countywide Traveller Unit (ECTU) and Rural Engagement Team
The Essex Countywide Traveller Unit (ECTU) is based at Essex County Council and works in partnership with the Essex Police Rural Engagement Team. ECTU was established to provide a key role in dealing with all matters relating to Gypsies and Travellers, including all unauthorised encampments, the management of permanent sites provided by the local authority and the provision of health, education and fire safety services. The ECTU is managed by the unit manager and operates from County Hall, Chelmsford, between change to 0900-1700 hours, Monday to Friday.
The Rural Engagement Team normally operates 7 days a week between 0800 and 2200 hrs and can be contacted via the Force Control Room.
In accordance with guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the relevant local authority will be the lead agency for unauthorised encampments. The ECTU will act on behalf of the landowner or Local Authority in managing any communication with the members of the unauthorised encampment, provided that the encampment is on Highway Land or land where the relevant Local Authority is a partner, ECTU will advise on this point. The ECTU will not act on private land.
3.2 Initial Report
A STORM incident log will be created for each unauthorised encampment notified to the police. Following initial attendance to the location the details of the encampment should be recorded on Athena by way of an investigation, please see 3.5. The initial STORM incident will be used to record the following:
Any calls from the public relating to the encampment;
Any calls from the occupants of the encampment;
Any incidents directly attributable to the occupants of the encampment.
It will be the responsibility of the Force Control Room supervisor to ensure that this incident is tagged as ‘Unauthorised Encampment’. When available, a Rural Engagement officer will attend, however there may be occasions when this is not possible and FCR should allocate an available unit.
The Rural Engagement Team should initially be requested to attend the incident however when not able to attend they should be contacted to provide tactical advice to the attending officer, for the purposes of managing the encampment and decision-making processes concerning the use of Section 61 powers of eviction.
3.3 Scene Assessment
Officers or staff initially attending the scene should:
Identify the landowner or their agent and obtain their name, address and telephone number;
Gather evidence to identify the point of entry and any offences committed to gain entry, i.e. criminal damage;
Begin a dialogue with members of the encampment to determine the following:
The full identify of any individual granting permission for them to be present on the land;
The identity of all occupants including the number of adults and children present;
Identify any immediate welfare needs;
Full details of all vehicles and caravans;
The location of their last site;
The duration of their intended stay;
The identity of a representative to act as a point of contact;
Serve the code of conduct (form C129) on the representative, together with a suitable verbal explanation of the type of conduct that will be classed as unacceptable and which will have the potential to lead to their eviction from the land. If a representative is not identifiable, it is advisable to serve the code of conduct on all occupants of the unauthorised encampment;
Takes steps to preserve any evidence, e.g., consider requesting the attendance of a crime scene investigator (CSI);
Photograph or video the site during initial visit and every subsequent visit to that location.
Complete an Initial Site Assessment Form C125; and email it;
Complete an eviction assessment rationale Form C126.
Landowners should be advised that reasonable steps must be taken by them to ask the trespassers to leave before police powers can be considered. This request should be recorded on Form C125 during the site assessment.
3.4 Senior Officer On-Site Assessment
Legislation requires the most senior officer present at the site to make an assessment concerning the eviction of the unauthorised encampment. That can be a Pc but not a PCSO. Where officers of the same rank are present it will be the most senior in service unless a Rural Engagement Officer is present.
It is recognised that the impact of encampments can change over time; consequently, there will be a need for on-going engagement and assessment to effectively manage these sites.
The eviction assessment should be a continuous process. It is necessary that an eviction assessment is completed on each and every occasion the encampment is visited, taking account of any changes in circumstances. The most senior officer present at the scene must therefore make a new assessment of the circumstances and record their rationale for evicting/not evicting the unauthorised encampment using form C126.
When available, the Rural Engagement Team forms an important part of the decision-making process. Through their expertise and knowledge they are able to advise whether it is proportionate and necessary to use police powers under Section 61 of the CJPOA and will provide a lead role with regard to eviction and subsequent legal action. This decision should be made in consultation with the Rural Engagement Team and their advice must be recorded on the eviction assessment form.
All eviction assessments resulting in the use of police powers to evict should first be communicated to the District Commander or if unavailable the Tactical (FDO) Commander for approval. When S61 is to be used the officer making the decision should ensure that there are sufficient police resources available to enforce the eviction prior to that decision being communicated with the landowner or the occupants of the encampment.
In cases where there is disagreement with the eviction decision from either the District/Tactical Commander, the most senior officer in disagreement must attend the location of the encampment to reconsider the eviction decision as Section 61 CJPOA legislation states that ONLY the senior officer PRESENT can make the decision to evict an unauthorised encampment.
The responsibility for on-going assessment of an unauthorised encampment will remain with the Rural Engagement Team however they will be supported by the District Policing Area.
An aide memoire form C127 provides further advice and guidance regarding the scene assessment and eviction rationale.
3.5 Making a Record on Athena
Once a site visit has been conducted and form C125/C126 has been completed a non-crime investigation report must be created on Athena, detailing the circumstances and location of the encampment, the occupants, the vehicles and a brief overview of the eviction assessment. (In the case of repeated visits, any change in circumstances relevant to the decision-making process need only be recorded).
Before saving and submitting the report, all supporting documents such as C125 and C126 must be scanned and the electronic copy attached to the report.
When a crime has been committed, for example damage to gain entry, this must be recorded separately, and an investigation opened on Athena.
3.6 Decision to Use Police Powers
If the decision is to utilise powers under Section 61 of the CJPOA 1994, then reasonable steps must be taken by the landowner to ask the trespassers to leave before police powers can be used (see form C130).
Any direction to leave must be given verbally and in writing (if practicable) whereby the senior officer on site would complete form C59 and ensure it is served on every applicable occupant/vehicle. Notices should be served at the earliest opportunity.
It is permissible to serve notices, providing a time limit within which the encampment must vacate the location. For example, notices can be served in the evening, with an eviction deadline of 1000 hours the following morning.
Once a final decision is reached, the original STORM incident should be endorsed with the outcome, including the use of any police powers. A periodic review will be conducted by the Rural Engagement Team Supervisor, and where applicable in conjunction with the Strategic Independent Advisory Group (IAG).
The legislation relating to the use of S61 CJPOA is very clear and will be the primary factor in determining the use of police powers in conjunction with the National Decision Model (NDM) and NPCC National Guidance.
The following factors must also be considered in addition to the legislation to decide whether it is proportionate and necessary to use the legal powers:
The community is deprived of local amenities, or there is a significant adverse impact on the environment, e.g. forming an encampment on any part of a recreation ground, public park, school field, village green, or depriving members of the public the use of car parks. The fact that other sections of the community are being deprived of the amenities must be evident before action is taken;
There is local disruption to the economy, e.g. forming an encampment on a shopping centre car park or in an industrial estate, particularly where it disrupts workers or customers. This would include agricultural land, especially where it disrupts the use of the land for its normal purpose;
There is other significant disruption to the local community or environment which is considered so significant that a prompt eviction by police becomes necessary;
There is a danger to the life of any individual: An example of this might be an encampment adjacent to a motorway, where there could be a danger of children or animals straying onto the carriageway;
There is a need to take preventative action: This might include where occupants of an encampment have persistently displayed anti-social behaviour at previous sites and there is reason to believe the behaviour will continue;
The mere presence of an encampment without any factors listed above should not normally create an expectation that police powers will be used. This should be communicated to the public, landowners, local authorities and other agencies.
It should be noted that, where there are insufficient grounds for local authorities to take action, then Essex Police will not automatically consider using police powers to evict.
Further advice and guidance for applying this procedure can be found on the Local Policing Support Unit intranet site.
3.7 Decision Not to Use Police Powers
If the decision is to not utilise powers under Section 61 of the CJPOA 94, the landowner should be advised of the rationale and an update provided to the Rural Engagement Team, who will communicate the decision to the ECTU where necessary. The decision not to use police powers will be reviewed at regular intervals throughout the duration of the unauthorised encampment, taking into account the conduct of the occupants and the eviction criteria.
Should the circumstances change, giving rise to a decision to evict, the Rural Engagement Team should be consulted for tactical advice.
In managing the unauthorised encampment, the local CPT/LPT Inspector will ensure:
Periodic visits by officers/staff are maintained to local residents and occupants of the site;
The impact of the unauthorised encampment on all communities is monitored;
Details are recorded of every additional vehicle/s that remain at the unauthorised encampment;
Effective steps are taken to build community relations with site residents and also to identify community tensions;
The details of any further incidents relating to occupants of the unauthorised encampment are documented within an Eviction Rationale form C126 and updated on Athena;
Any change in circumstances is communicated to the Rural Engagement Team;
Inform the landowner, their agent or the local/unitary authority responsible for the land of any decision to evict/not evict the encampment as soon as reasonably practicable.
This process will be overseen by the District Policing Area Commander.
Any decision to use/not use police powers of eviction under Section 61 CJPOA should be made using the National Decision Model and must be fully auditable and recorded on form C126 (Eviction rationale). All decisions must be made in accordance with Section 61 CJPOA legislation and taking regard for Equality Act and Human Rights legislation and in compliance with the Code of Ethics.
3.8 Retention and Disposal of Records
Documents mentioned in the above procedure will be retained in line with W 1012 Procedure/SOP – Records Review, Retention and Disposal and will be retained by the Rural Engagement Team within Local Policing Support Unit, HQ.
4.0 Equality Impact Assessment
5.0 Risk Assessment
There are no specific risks that arise from the implementation of this procedure. Each incident will have a degree of risk associated with the particular circumstances that are reported. Officers engaging with people who are part of an unauthorised encampment will be required to conduct a site assessment, part of which will include the assessment of any risk associated with the safety and welfare needs of those who remain within the encampment.
Officers or members of police staff will be required to conduct a dynamic risk assessment concerning their own personal safety, whenever they engage with the occupants of an unauthorised encampment; this will include the implementation of standard working practices to protect the safety of operational staff.
Where a decision is made to enter an unauthorised encampment to enforce the lawful eviction of the inhabitants, a full operational risk assessment will be required using form PERS52.
The following have been consulted during the formulation of this document:
Equality and Diversity Co-ordinator
Health & Safety
Strategic Change Team
Force Risk & Policy Advisor
Operational District Commanders
FCR Chief Inspector
Equality of Services Manager
Women’s Leadership Development Forum
Work Life Balance
Christian Police Association
7.0 Monitoring and Review
All completed documents must be forwarded to the Rural Engagement Team Supervisor at Local Policing Support Unit who will ensure that this procedure is complied with. A representative dip sample may be conducted periodically by the Equality of Service Supervisor.
This procedure will be reviewed every 12 months by, or on behalf of, the Chief Inspector, Local Policing Support Unit, to ensure that it remains up-to-date and fit for purpose.
8.0 Governing Force policy. Related Force policies or related procedures
D 0700 Policy – Public Order
B 1402 Procedure – Hate Crime
W 1012 Procedure/SOP – Records Review, Retention and Disposal
8.1 Data Security
Essex Police have measures in place to protect the security of your data in accordance with our Information Management Policy – W 1000 Policy – Information Management.
8.2 Retention & Disposal of Records
Essex Police will hold data in accordance with our Records Review, Retention & Disposal Policy – W 1012 Procedure/SOP - Records Review, Retention and Disposal.
We will only hold data for as long as necessary for the purposes for which we collected. Victims/public should be reminded that Essex Police take the protection of personal data seriously as described in the privacy notice.
9.0 Other source documents, e.g. legislation, Authorised Professional Practice (APP), Force forms, partnership agreements (if applicable)
Department for Communities and Local Government Guidance on Managing Unauthorised Camping
NPCC Guidance on Unauthorised Encampments (2018)
‘Common Ground’(2006) by the Commission for Racial Equality
Form PERS52 – Risk Assessment – Operational Orders