Enforcement action following unauthorised traveller encampments in Southend
Main article content
Essex Police and Southend Borough Council are continuing to work to together to address the issue of unauthorised traveller encampments and minimise their impact on our local communities.
Further work between police and the council has ensured the encampment has now moved out of Essex.
Chief Inspector Ian Hughes, District Commander for Southend, said: “We know that where unauthorised traveller encampments occur there can, on occasion, be disruption to the local community and we work with our partners to resolve the situation.
“Protecting our local communities and businesses is always a priority and over the last few days we’ve had a visible policing presence in the area to reassure the public and engage with them.
“Unauthorised encampments are a civil act of trespass and the landowner has powers, in the first instance, to get it to move on.
“Where the landowner has taken reasonable steps to get an encampment to move on and has been unsuccessful, the police may get involved.
“On this particular occasion it took time to identify the landowner but once we had done we worked with them to resolve the situation.
“Where reports of crimes take place we will investigate but I want to stress that we do see unauthorised encampments which do not have an impact on our communities, do not leave any waste or rubbish once they’ve moved on, and are polite and friendly.”
Cllr Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, says: “We do understand the frustrations of local residents and businesses where unauthorised encampments occur.
“However, there is a legal process that has to be followed in all cases. In this particular situation, we worked with Essex Police to help them make contact with the intermediate landlord, who were legally responsible for taking reasonable steps to get the encampment to move on.
Unauthorised encampments are a civil matter of trespass and, in the first instance, landowners have powers to get an encampment to move.
When one is reported to us, we will speak to the travellers, the landowner and relevant local authorities. We will assess the site and work with partners and landowners to ensure the most appropriate response according to the individual circumstances of each case.
We can only use policing powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act when a landowner has taken reasonable steps to ask an encampment to leave, and:
there is damaged caused to land or property on that land, or threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour have been used towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent, or there are six or more vehicles on the land.
We will then review guidance from the National Police Chief’s Council to ensure using the powers is proportionate. The guidance states forces should consider becoming involved in bringing about the prompt and lawful removal of unauthorised encampments, including the use of police powers under Section 61 or 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, where:
* the encampment is depriving a community of a local amenity or there is a significant impact on the environment;
* there is disruption to the local economy;
* there is significant disruption to the local community or environment;
* there is a danger to life;
* the group involved has displayed persistent anti-social behaviour at previous sites and it is reasonable to believe they will do so at this new site.
We will investigate any reports of criminal offences and anti-social behaviour.