Travellers face new jail threat in illegal site blitz

Travellers will face jail if they return to illegal sites within a year of being evicted as Home Office blitzes encampments that ’cause misery’

  • Travellers could face jail or fines of up to £2,000 if they return to illegal sites within a year of being evicted under new legislation
  • Government says Police Powers and Protection Bill will help get rid of illegal encampments that ’cause misery’
  • At present, councils can only move people on to sites within their own areas, and travellers are only fined if they return within three months

Travellers could face jail or fines of up to £2,000 if they return to illegal sites within a year of being evicted under new legislation.

The Government says the Police Powers and Protection Bill will help get rid of illegal encampments that ’cause misery’.

The proposed law, due to come before Parliament within the next few weeks, will give local authorities the power to move illegally camped travellers to legal sites in neighbouring authorities.

At present, councils can only move people on to sites within their own areas, and travellers are only fined if they return within three months.

Travellers could face jail or fines of up to £2,000 if they return to illegal sites within a year of being evicted under new legislation. The Government says the Police Powers and Protection Bill will help get rid of illegal encampments that ’cause misery’. (File photo of caravans at Hove Lawns, Hove)

The proposed law, due to come before Parliament within the next few weeks, will give local authorities the power to move illegally camped travellers to legal sites in neighbouring authorities. At present, councils can only move people on to sites within their own areas, and travellers are only fined if they return within three months. (Above, caravans in Richmond, west London, last May)

Since trespass is not a criminal offence, travellers who set up illegal sites do not face imprisonment.

The proposed change would see trespassing on private land to set up a site made a criminal offence, with people who break the law facing up to three months in prison.

The new law also sets the threshold where police could take action at two caravans, down from the current six.

A Government source told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The vast majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens, but illegal sites often give an unfair, negative image of their community, and cause distress and misery to those who live nearby.

‘There is a widespread perception that the law does not apply to travellers, and that is deeply troubling.’

Abbie Kirby, of the Friends, Families and Travellers charity, accused the Home Office of ‘ignoring police views’. 

Last summer The Mail on Sunday revealed how villagers at Grange Moor, West Yorkshire, had appealed to their local council to dig a trench to stop travellers regularly returning to an unauthorised site (pictured)

She claimed that 75 per cent of police responses in a consultation process said current powers were sufficient, that 84 per cent did not support making unauthorised encampments a criminal matter, and 65 per cent said a lack of site provision was the real issue.

Last summer The Mail on Sunday revealed how villagers at Grange Moor, West Yorkshire, had appealed to their local council to dig a trench to stop travellers regularly returning to an unauthorised site.

It is estimated there are 23,000 traveller caravans in England, with 14 per cent on unauthorised sites.

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