What happens when Gypsies and Travellers visit the neighbourhood?
Most of the time, Gypsies and Travellers like to keep themselves to themselves. In some situations (such as a wedding or a funeral, if a relative is in hospital, or if they have broken down), they may have to stop closer to residential areas.
Each case is taken on its own merit following Department for Communities and Local Government guidelines.
I have seen Gypsies or Travellers camping on council-owned land; what can the council do in these cases?
We consider each case individually. In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the Gypsies or Travellers keep the site clean and tidy. This sometimes means that refuse collection facilities may be provided for this purpose.
We cannot remove unauthorised encampments immediately: we must act according to national legislation and guidelines by:
- showing that the Gypsies or Travellers are on the land without consent
- making enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children's education
- ensuring that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with
- following a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of land and details of the illegal encampment that will enable them to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the courts to order the Gypsies or Travellers to leave the site
It is possible that the land may be owned by the county council. If so it would be their responsibility to remove the Gypsies or Travellers from their land.
What should I do if I suspect that an encampment is unauthorised?
We can only take enforcement action when an unauthorised encampment is on land in Cambridge owned by us, but we will notify other landlords and advise them on their rights and responsibilities where necessary.
How long will it take for the Gypsies or Travellers to be removed?
This will depend upon the circumstances of each individual case. We will need to take account of the issues outlined above as well as how soon a court hearing date can be obtained.
Can the court refuse to grant the council an order to move Gypsies or Travellers on?
Yes. If there is an unavoidable reason for the Gypsies or Travellers to stay on the site, or if the court believes we have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the Gypsies or Travellers. We must try to find out this information before going to court.
What can the police do?
The police will visit all sites reported to them but trespass is a civil offence and not a criminal offence. Prevention of trespass and the removal of trespassers are the responsibilities of the landowner and not the police.
Cambridgeshire police carefully assesses each incident of unauthorised camping and, under Department for Communities and Local Government and Home Office guidelines, act proportionately.
The police have powers to move Gypsies or Travellers off land where criminal activity by them can be established - just as crime committed by settled people has to be proven.
The police also have discretionary powers to direct Travellers off land where group behaviour goes against the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
In certain circumstances (for example, where the Gypsies or Travellers have with them six or more vehicles), officers may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers will only be used in situations of serious criminality or public disorder not capable of being addressed by normal criminal legislation and in which the trespassory occupation of the land is a relevant factor.
The police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained to avoid using Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.
How can I find out more about Gypsies and Travellers?
There are a number of leaflets and publications available which give information about Gypsy and Traveller culture and lifestyle.
Travellers Times website