02:18PM, Thursday 07 November 2019
Police may be given more power to move travellers on from unauthorised encampments after the Government announced it will consult on changing the law.
Under the proposed changes, police will have more powers to arrest and seize the property of trespassers.
Settling on an unauthorised encampment is a civil matter, but the Home Office is consulting on making it a criminal offence.
Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) has previously criticised unauthorised traveller encampments in the borough and has welcomed the proposed changes.
He said: “I am all for protecting our communities and our parks and green spaces.
“Travellers don’t make themselves welcome in the area because pretty much every site they visit ends up with rubbish and mess.”
He added that authorised sites where travellers can settle should be provided in the borough.
“Let’s get sites sorted for them so they have somewhere to go, so we are appreciating their culture and way of life,” he added.
“Everyone deserves respect and that includes the travellers coming to the area treating residents with respect.”
The proposed changes to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 include lowering the number of vehicles required for police to take action from six to two.
Police will also be able to move offenders to authorised sites in neighbouring boroughs, and trespassers will not be able to return to the site within a year.
Anti-discrimination group Friends and Families for Travellers have slammed the proposed law change.
A spokeswoman said: “The proposals would have a devastating impact on gypsy and traveller communities, who face some of the greatest inequalities of any group in England and Wales.
“It is no coincidence that this announcement comes in the wake of a general election. If there was a real appetite to address the issue of unauthorised encampments, the government would have invested in site provision.”
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