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Gypsies and Travellers

What should I do if travellers camp on my land?

Consult your solicitor who can go to the County Court and obtain an Order granting possession of your land. Alternatively you can ask the Council, Norfolk and Suffolk Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Liaison Service or the Courts for advice.

Does the Council have a duty to move travellers when they are camped without the landowners permission?

No. Primarily the responsibility for moving travellers rests with the landowner if they are located on private land.

If I own land, what can I do to deter travellers camping on it?

Make earth barriers; plough the land so vehicles sink in; reduce access width and/or headroom by the use of barriers; place locked gates across the entrance; and use the land for some purpose that makes it unsuitable to live on. You may need to consult your solicitor or insurers prior to taking such actions.

I have seen travellers camping on sides of roads, parks or other Council-owned land. What can the Council do in these cases?

If travellers cause problems they will be moved on as soon as possible. If they are not causing a problem, the encampment may be tolerated for a short time but the travellers will be told they are trespassing. The Council will consider each case on its merits. In all cases, the land is visited and every effort made to try and make sure the area is kept clean and tidy and does not cause any public health problems.

Do the Police and the Council work together on these problems?

Yes. There is a Standing Committee including representatives of the Suffolk Constabulary, the Norfolk and Suffolk Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Liaison Service, the District Council, the settled community (represented by their Ward and County Councillors). These agencies have worked together to produce a Joint Strategy, which is available from police stations, council offices and your local library.

If the Council wants to, can they remove travellers from land immediately?

No. The Council first has to be able to show that the travellers are on the land without the consent of the owner. In addition, enquiries must initially be made regarding the welfare and rights the travellers have before deciding on whether to take any action. If action is to be taken the travellers must be asked to leave. If they refuse, the Council can obtain a Summons to serve on them. The Court can subsequently issue an Order permitting the Council to move the travellers.

What legislation is open to local authorities in such circumstances?

The Council can apply under Part 55 (County Court Rules 1981), which would be heard in the County Court.

Order 113 (Supreme Court Rules 1965) is an application to the High Court. Both these orders may identify specific areas covering the traveller sites. It should be remembered that responsibility for removal of travellers from private land rests with the owner of the land.

In addition to these applications the Council can apply to a Magistrates Court for a Possession Order (Section 78 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) if the travellers fail to comply. In order to achieve this the council must have issued a direction to the travellers requiring them to leave the land (Section 77 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). These orders apply to specific sites and return to the site within three months is an offence.

Do the Police have a duty to do anything to help?

The Police have a duty to preserve the peace and prevent offences against people and property. This applies to both the community as a whole and travellers. Trespass on land alone is not a criminal offence and prevention of trespass is the responsibility of the landowner and occupier, not the Police.

What can the Police do?

In certain circumstances a senior police officer has the discretion to order the travellers to leave and remove any vehicles and other property they may have with them on the land (Section 61 - Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). If they fail to do so they may commit an offence and may be taken to Court. The Police must be satisfied that the owner/occupier of the site has taken reasonable steps to get them to leave. Civil remedies exist and should normally be exhausted before this power is exercised, except in cases of disorder.