Travellers legally challenge eviction for Olympics

Mark mark at
Mon Mar 12 16:57:22 GMT 2007

Travellers go to court over eviction to make way for Olympic village

ยท Legal challenge to use Human Rights Act

by Duncan Campbell
Monday March 12, 2007
The Guardian

The first major contests of the 2012 Olympics are taking place not in
one of the new stadiums but in the Royal Courts of Justice. Lawyers
for two groups of Travellers are using human rights legislation to
challenge plans to move them from their sites to make way for the
Olympic Village.

At the centre of the legal battle are two existing sites for
Travellers in the east London boroughs of Newham and Hackney. The
London Development Agency is seeking to move the Travellers to new
sites so that construction work can begin.

The LDA wants the Travellers in Newham to be relocated from their
site in Clay's Lane, where they have been for 36 years, to a nearby
park, which is currently used by locals for games and a children's
playground, and is surrounded by four busy roads.

The Travellers and residents near the park are unhappy at the plans.
Tracie Giles, whose family has lived on the site for more than three
decades, said the new site would make them "like animals in a zoo".
However, Newham council has this month given planning permission to
the site.

The Travellers will next month take their case to court under article
eight of the 1998 Human Rights Act which states that "everyone has
the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and
his correspondence."

The act stipulates that a public authority cannot interfere with this
right except in the interests of "national security, public safety,
the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder
or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the
protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

Chris Johnson, the Birmingham-based solicitor who has represented
Travellers in a number of precedent-setting cases, will challenge the
decision to compulsorily purchase the two sites in an action against
the trade and industry secretary next month. He said the European
court had been more receptive to such actions than its British

"The domestic courts in this country have sucked some of the
lifeblood out of the Human Rights Act," said Mr Johnson. "The
European court has been more far-sighted in the way it is applied."

In 2004, the European court had ruled against the eviction of a
Lancashire-based Traveller, James Connors, and his family. In its
judgment, that there had been a violation of article eight of the
act, the European court said "there was a positive obligation on the
United Kingdom to facilitate the Gypsy way of life."

The European court has set the bar high for any authority seeking to
move a Traveller family without their agreement. As the judgment
stated, "the serious interference with the applicant's rights under
article eight required, in the court's opinion, particularly weighty
reasons of public interest by way of justification."

The judgment also highlighted the differences in the interpretation
of the Human Rights Act between British courts and those elsewhere in
Europe: "It would rather appear that the situation in England, as it
had developed, for which the authorities had to take some
responsibility, placed considerable obstacles in the way of Gypsies
pursuing an actively nomadic lifestyle."

The Travellers have already lost one judicial review in court. Now,
however, the residents living near the proposed new site in Major
Road Park, Newham, will decide this week whether they, too, will seek
a judicial review to challenge Newham council's agreement to turn the
park into a Travellers' site.

Further info can be sourced from:
The London Gypsy and Traveller Unit:

Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions:

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