The Police and South Bucks District Council have now issued guidance about what can be done about travellers moving onto land in our parish.
Firstly South Bucks DC say:-
‘We wanted to share these links which will give you guidance and advice if you feel the location of an encampment in Chiltern or South Bucks District Councils is unlawful:
This is now linked to CDC and SBDC’s own information pages and the link to BCC has been added to the ‘report it’ section on the websites.
Report it sections
Thames Valley Police say:-
There have been a number of traveller encampments across the police area over the past few months, which have caused an increase in calls from concerned residents. Many residents have expressed concerns that the police have not moved them on. Hopefully this update will explain the legal powers of the police, and how we work with our partner agencies with these incidents.
The encampment in Farnham Royal a few weeks ago was slightly different to most of the other encampments in the area. In order for Police to legally use our powers to evict trespassers from land, there are a number of points in law we need to adhere to. Police do have powers, under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994.
Firstly, we need to prove that the occupiers are trespassers and that they are two or more in numbers and have a common purpose of residing on the land. In order to do this, we need to evidence the landowner, or an agent acting on their behalf, has asked the occupiers to leave the land, and that the landowner or agent has taken reasonable steps to get them to leave. We also have to evidence that the occupiers have caused damage to the land or property on the land, or that they have used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the owner, family member, agent or employee. Failing this, we need to show that between the occupiers, there are 6 or more vehicles on the land. There are also other factors to consider, in line with human rights legislation and the community impact factors. If all the relevant criteria is met, police can use their powers.
However, police powers are a last resort and not the default. Primarily, the responsibility sits with the landowner to seek eviction through court proceedings or our partner agencies, ie: the Council.
The Farnham Royal situation was made difficult for any agency as the landowner was happy for the occupiers to stay on the land, which immediately negated any police powers being lawfully used.
Whenever an encampment sets up, police will always visit and engage with the occupiers. A site assessment is completed, and Codes Of Conduct are issued to all the occupiers. Police then monitor the encampment and continually assess the behaviour of the occupants. Any criminal offences or anti-social behaviour (ASB) are dealt with accordingly.
The Act states:
Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows the senior police officer attending the scene of an incident involving trespass, in certain circumstances, to direct the trespassers to leave the land and remove their vehicles and property as soon as reasonably practicable.
61(1) If the senior police officer present at the scene reasonably believes that two or more persons are trespassing on land and are present there with the common purpose of residing there for any period, that reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave and
A: that any of those persons has caused damage to the land or to the property on the land or used threatening abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent of his, OR
B: that those persons have between them six or more vehicles on the land, he may direct those persons, or any of them, to leave the land and to remove any vehicles or other property they have with them on the land.