Court of Appeal rules in Dale Farm eviction case

Darren Hill mail at
Sun Jan 31 12:35:22 GMT 2010
both below.....

Human Rights appeal over traveller evictions
Thursday 28th January 2010
By Jon Austin »
A HUMAN rights group in Italy has urged Basildon Council not to evict hundreds of travellers from Dale Farm in Crays Hill. The Everyman Group based in Italy is writing to various UK authorities to highlight how may Roma people in Italy had been left homeless following forced evictions. 
The statement said: “A decision to go ahead with the eviction would be unworthy of the United Kingdom, which, despite its many contradictions, remains a beacon in the European Union for those who are involved in human rights activities.” 

  Dale Farm Travellers Face Eviction After UK Appeals Court Ruling,
  January 22, 2009

News Bulletin 173 
January 22, 2009 
Dale Farm Travellers Face Eviction After UK Appeals Court Ruling
January 22, 2009, London, UK: After four tumultuous years of protest, 
the Travellers at Dale Farm in southeast England lost their struggle to 
remain in their homes today, when the British Court of Appeal ruled that 
they can be legally evicted by Basildon District Council.
The decision <> affects 
around 90 families and represents a major defeat for the Travellers and 
their supporters. These include The Advocacy Project (AP), which has 
sent two Peace Fellows to volunteer at Dale Farm.
Today's decision reversed a May 2008 ruling by the British High Court, 
which temporarily halted the Dale Farm evictions and ordered the Council 
to find alternative land for the Travellers. The appeals court disagreed 
and said the Council can now decide what actions to take and when, as 
long as the Travellers are not rendered homeless.
Keith Lomax, the attorney for the Travellers, said the case could still 
go to the House of Lords on appeal. He also asked the Basildon Council 
to think carefully before expelling the Travellers, who include 
children, elderly, disabled and mentally ill people.
"Surely, if every family (in another neighborhood) were to be evicted in 
this way, there would be an outcry," he said. "Is it different when the 
people are Gypsies or Irish Travellers?"
Grattan Puxon, Secretary of the Dale Farm Housing Association, told 
several British news outlets that the Travellers would continue to fight 
for a "common sense solution." He predicted that if the Travellers are 
evicted immediately, they might move to another site next to the 
contested land.
The Dale Farm crisis began in June 2005, when the Basildon Council 
ordered the Travellers to leave, because they were living on Green Belt 
land that is protected from development by environmental regulations. 
The Council issued a second eviction order in 2007.
The Travellers and their advocates argue that the Travellers are defined 
as a distinct ethnic group by British law and have long been targets of 
discrimination in the UK. This, according to the advocates, should 
entitle the Travellers to special protection, not eviction. In addition, 
the wholesale eviction of the Dale Farm families would interrupt the 
education of the Traveller children and create a health crisis.
But three appeals court justices found today that the Council acted 
legally. They wrote that by remaining on the site the Travellers are in 
"conscious defiance" of the law and that society has no obligation to 
provide them with land on their terms.
At the same time, the justices also noted that under the 1996 Housing 
Act, the Council must make other arrangements for the Travellers if they 
are left without homes. "Where a person is threatened with 
homelessness... then the council's duty is to take reasonable steps to 
secure that accommodation does not cease to be available for that 
person," Lord Justice Timothy Lloyd wrote.
Mr Lomax said that the Basildon Council will have to consider the needs 
of families that would become homeless under its eviction plan. "It 
can't just send in the bulldozers without further ado, which is what the 
Council was going to do back in 2005," he said.
It is also clear that land is in short supply for Travellers and Gypsies 
in Britain and that local councils are expected to respond. The East of 
England Regional Assembly has asked the Basildon Council to provide 81 
additional plots for Travellers. This has been ignored by the Council.
"Now, Basildon Council, it is up to you. People need places to live," Mr 
Lomax said. "The same goes for all Councils across the country. Site 
provision is the answer, not endless evictions onto the open road. Stop 
passing the buck."
Local residents of the Basildon area are likely to disagree with Mr 
Lomax. One comment on an AP video about Dale Farm today asked: "Why 
should the (Basildon) council provide an alternative? They should be 
kicked off, if they have no immediate and legal place to go to they 
should be sent back to bloody Ireland where they came from."
The majority of the Dale Farm Travellers were born in the UK. Almost all 
have UK citizenship.


Gratton Puxon gives an overall picture of the Save Dale Farm Campaign as 
it enters its seventh year and prepares for a likely series of eviction 
attempts against hundreds of so-called /illegal/ residents at both Dale 
Farm and nearby Hovefields.

1 A huge housing/homeless process is underway in which residents are 
being assisted by local church volunteers and a team from Essex 
University Law Clinic.

Basildon council has already disqualified a number of people by claiming 
they rendered themselves */intentionally/* homeless by leaving housing 
accommodation or council-run caravan sites, sometime in the past.

These disqualifications are being challenged by Davis Gore Lomax, 
solicitors representing residents. Reviews of unacceptable housing /flat 
offers are also being demanded, along with requests for land rather than 
bricks-and-mortar acommodation.

2 At the same time Basildon is trying to avoid the obligation to provide 
land for at least 62 new mobile-home pitches. A hearing may be pending 
in the High Court.

Residents are applying to be represented at any hearing on this issue, 
saying they were counted as among those in need of legal caravan park 
accommodation under the 2004 Housing Act.

3 Small-scale meetings continue to take place between BDC officials led 
by Dawn French, nominated project leader, and Gypsy Council and CEHR 
members representing Dale Farm. However, the BDC says no discussion of 
the 62-pitch provision can be included on the agenda of these meetings.

4 An initial meeting with Chief Insp Simon Dobinson is taking place this 
week to begin a review of a whole raft of issues around past and future 
policing of eviction operations.
In the past Constant bailiffs have been allowed to ignore safety 
procedures and their destruction of private property has gone unchecked. 
Anyone who has seen the Meadowlands eviction DVD will have an idea of 
the terror instilled in children in particular by the use of riot police 
and hard-hat bailiffs. Be aware of the warning issued by Basildon 
Primary Care Trust doctors of the inevitable trauma and injuries that 
will occur if and when Constant are again unleased.

To counter this situation, the campaign is seeking followup meetings 
with senior Essex police officers at Basildon police station and with 
the Essex Police Authority in Chelmsford, as well as with Health and 
Safety Executive staff and senior Essex County Council officials.
A hot line has been sent up with the HSE, so that inspectors can be 
quickly notified of safety breaches.

Several Traveller organizations and support groups have said they want 
to participate in these meetings, and supply monitors to help oversee 
compliance with any agreements reached.

Specific issues include:
a) the requirement on the BDC, Constant and police to produce a Risk 
Assessment report before an enforcement operation, and the right of 
residents facing eviction to scrutinze that report and if necessary 
challenge its conclusions.
b) the extreme breaches of safety law that Constant has committed in the 
past (at Meadowlands, Twin Oaks and Hovefields among many other 
locations) by employing heavy machinery in close proximity to small 
children. And arising from this the need to reach agreement on proper 
policing of future evictions, including prevention of heavy plant 
(bulldozers, cranes, low-loaders) onto sites while children and 
vulnerable elderly and sick persons are present.
c) adoption of the plan put forward by Wickford churches to make 
available church halls as places of shelter during the initial phase of 
any eviction operation at Dale Farm. In particular some mothers with 
small children, and pregnant mothers, may wish to be evacuated to the 
church halls before Constant bailiffs and anti-riot police, and their 
accompanying vehicles and machinery, approach.
d) the role of the UN Eviction Observer Team and Human Rights Monitors.
e) access for international media and reporters (a number of whom will 
be embedded at Dale Farm)

NOT TO BE REVEALED are the preparations made for the nonviolent but 
direct physical defence of Dale Farm, and the role of those willing to 
join a human shield-type strategy, which will be needed to protect some 
of the elderly residents and babies and small children not taken to 
church halls (bear in mind no agreement on the use of the halls has yet 
been reached).

The aim of defenders will be to challenge the right of the BDC to use 
private roads (outside the /illegal/ part of Dale Farm) and to hold up 
the operation long enough to allow time for an application to a judge in 
chambers (duty judge) for an injunction halting the eviction, on the 
grounds of safety violations, ongoing danger to children and others and 
unnecessary destruction of property.

Please email with your comments and suggestions as we need to fine-tune 
plans as quickly as possible. No eviction operation will be launched 
before dispatch of a 28-day warming notice to those being targeted for 
forceful removal.

19 January 2010

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