[Diggers350] Social Cleansing: Tories New Anti-traveller Laws Set To Criminalise Nomadic Way Of Life

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Mar 10 02:15:36 GMT 2021

Social Cleansing: Tories New Anti-traveller Laws 
Set To Criminalise Nomadic Way Of Life

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9 March 2021 
<http://tlio.org.uk/author/tony/>TONY GOSLING 

New Anti-traveller Laws Set To Criminalise Nomadic Way Of Life

The Government has announced new laws that will 
make trespass with vehicles a criminal offence – 
in a move that has caused fury among Gypsy and Traveller campaigners.


The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said yesterday, 
that the new laws will target trespassers “who 
intend to reside on any private or public land in 
vehicles without permission, and where they are 
causing significant disruption, distress or harm to local communities.”

“This new offence will enable the police to fine 
or arrest those residing without permission on 
private or public land in vehicles in order to 
stop significant disruption, distress or harm 
being caused to the law-abiding majority,” she added.

The new law also gives the police the powers to 
seize and impound vehicles whose owners fail to 
comply with the new law and who refuse – or can’t – leave.

Gypsy and Traveller campaigners reacted with fury 
saying that the new laws were racist.

“You are criminalising a problem that has been 
created by the failings of a political will to 
deliver appropriate accommodation,” said Joseph P 
Jones from the Gypsy Council, in a Facebook 
comment left on Priti Patel’s Facebook page.

Joseph P Jones also pointed out that to get 
planning permission to develop their own 
permanent legal Traveller site, Gypsies and 
Travellers have to obtain ‘gypsy status’, the 
only requirement of which is to prove that they 
are – and will – continue to travel.

“Travellers are told they have to prove they 
travel to gain planning permission for their own private sites,” he added.

locally, Councils refuse to provide public sites. 
Well, racism is alive and well in the Home 
Office. Through political failure. Be proud of your right-wing achievement.”

Police Powers and Protections Bill (2021)

The Government say that the new offence of criminal trespass will target:

    * A person aged 18 or over resides or intends 
to reside on land without consent of the occupier of the land;
    * They have, or intend to have, at least one 
vehicle with them on the land;
    * They have caused or are likely to cause 
significant damage, disruption or distress;

They, without reasonable excuse:

    * Fail to leave the land and remove their 
property following a request to do so by an 
occupier of the land, their representative or a constable; or
    * Enter or, having left, re-enter the land 
with an intention of residing there without the 
consent of the occupier of the land, and with an 
intention to have at least one vehicle with them, 
within 12 months of a request to leave and remove 
their property from an occupier of the land, 
their representative or a constable.
    * Reasonable suspicion that a person has 
committed this offence confers power on a 
constable to seize their vehicle/other property 
[home] for up to three months from the date of 
seizure or, if criminal proceedings are 
commenced, until the conclusion of those proceedings.

The new law will affect England and Wales – but not Scotland.

A horse drawn wagon will count as a vehicle. 
Horse drawn ‘new’ Travellers are worried that 
their way of life will be destroyed as well. 
Picture from No Fixed Abode Traveller group

Responding to the news, Abbie Kirkby, Public 
Affairs and Policy Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers said:

“The Government seems hell bent on introducing 
tougher police powers for people living on 
roadside camps, even though all the evidence is 
stacking up against them – in their own 
consultation it is clear that most respondents 
don’t want tougher powers. The views of the 
majority of consultation respondents have been 
ignored, opening the door to a harsh and unfair 
set of proposals which punish some of the UK’s 
minority ethnic groups, who already face some of the starkest inequalities.

Our research shows that the majority of police 
respondents are against the proposals and also 
that there is a chronic national shortage of 
places to stop. The Government should not 
imprison people, fine them and remove their homes 
for the ‘crime’ of having nowhere to go. Another 
way is possible. Through negotiated stopping and 
by identifying land where Traveller sites can be 
built, councils can ensure nomadic families have 
a safe place to stop, save money on evictions and 
improve relations between travelling and settled 
communities. Everybody needs a place to live.”

Responding to the proposals, Jenny, a Romany Gypsy, said:

“My daughter is trying to get a pitch, but loads 
of families trying, she’s feeling depressed. Her 
and her partner don’t know where they’re going to 
go. It’s not right to criminalise us all. We 
don’t leave any rubbish, we respect the other 
residents, we clean up after ourselves, but we’re 
going to be stopped from travelling. There aren’t 
enough sites for Travellers. We’re being treated 
like animals. They’re always building more houses 
but no more sites. She can’t get a site, she 
can’t stop on the road. She’s tearful, she’s 
crying a lot. She just wants to settle down and 
make a life for herself like anyone else.”

The Government promised to bring in the new law 
in their manifesto for the last election. An 
image put up on her Facebook page yesterday by Home Secretary Priti Patel

The laws are pretty much what campaigners were 
fearing and what was promised in the Conservative 
manifesto at the last election – the criminalisation of trespass with vehicles.

By focusing on vehicles the Government has 
side-stepped opposition from ramblers and 
homeless charities. However that makes the new 
laws easier to challenge under equalities laws as 
Romany Gypsies and Irish and Scottish Travellers 
are protected ethnic groups. We understand that 
lawyers are already geared up to challenge the new laws.

The surprise is that the number of vehicles 
needed to trigger the new laws has dropped from 
the promised two to one. This then brings lots of 
the new single vehicle ‘van-lifers’ parking up on 
private or public land within the scope of the new law.

On the face of it, the new laws are only 
triggered if the senior police officer attending 
the camp believes that the camp “has caused or 
are likely to cause significant damage, disruption or distress.”

However, “likely to cause” is open to wide 
interpretations and the powers, and the resulting 
seizure of vehicles if the camp refuses to 
disband, will be reliant on the whims and 
prejudices of the police officers present – and 
some police officers are more racist than others

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