Gypsies and Travellers are recognised as ethnic groups with particular cultures, language and values and are protected from discrimination by the Race Relations Act 1976. For generations they have followed a nomadic way of life. 'New age' groups who may have chosen a nomadic way of life are not recognised as an ethnic group, but the same rules apply to their encampments as to those of Gypsies and Travellers.
The rights of Gypsies/Travellers have to be balanced with the rights of landowners and those affected by the encampment. Each encampment is dealt with on its merits and if no public health nuisance or strong objections are received then the Government has advised that when Gypsies/Travellers are not causing a problem, the site may be tolerated.
Dealing with Illegal Encampments
The District Council is only able to evict Gypsies/Travellers off Council owned land. If the Gypsies/Travellers are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable. There is a procedure that the District Council has to follow in dealing with such illegal encampments:
show that the Gypsies/Travellers are on the land without consent
make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children's education
ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with
follow a set procedure in terms of proving ownership of land and details of the illegal encampment that will enable us to successfully obtain the necessary authority from the Courts to order the Gypsies/Travellers to leave the site.
It normally takes two to three weeks to gather the relevant information and obtain a court hearing date. The Court can refuse to grant the Council an order to move the Gypsies/Travellers on if it believes there is an unavoidable reason for the Gypsies/Travellers to stay on the site or if the Court believes that the council have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding the general health and welfare of the Gypsies/Travellers.
Encampments on County Council Land
Derbyshire County Council deals with encampments on their land, the highway or grass verge. Please contact Paul Walton, Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officer at Derbyshire County Council on 01629 538 466 for sites on the public highway or on Derbyshire County Council land.
Encampments on Private Land
If the encampment is on private land the landowner, if possible, should talk to the travellers to try and gauge how long they will be there. The landowner can also take proceedings in the County Court under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to obtain a Court Order for their eviction. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the Court hearing.
Any decision by the landowner to allow the travellers to stay on site must be undertaken with the correct planning permissions and licensing. Any breach of these permissions will result in the Council taking action against the landowner.
The duty of the Police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land by itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of Trespass is the responsibility of the landowner not the Police. The Police will investigate all criminal and Public Order offences.
In certain circumstances (for example where the Travellers have with them six or more vehicles), Police Officers may use powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers will not be used as a matter of routine. The section gives the police powers to act but officers can choose whether to use them or not. Each case will be looked at on its merits having regard to the safety of the community and taking into consideration any aggravating factors of crime or disorder.
The police will call at all unauthorised sites - you can call the Derbyshire Police the non-emergency number 101.
Erewash Borough Council
Tel: 0115 907 2244