A broad group of over 200 organisations supporting human rights have sent a letter today to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Justice to express profound concerns about the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill published on 9th March.
LGT is one of the co-signatories of the letter which highlights the devastating consequences of the new legislation that is rapidly being pushed through Parliament. These include an attack on the fundamental rights to protest peacefully.
For Gypsies and Travellers the most alarming part of the Bill is the introduction of a criminal offence for ‘residing, or intending to reside on land without consent in or with a vehicle’. Simply put, anyone stopping in a vehicle without permission on land they don’t own will face imprisonment, fines and having their property taken away. Due to the lack of sufficient sites and stopping places across the country, this will mean that a whole community will be criminalised for having nowhere to go.
Even more worrying is the language used to describe this offence, which is highly open to interpretation. Anyone who is considered ‘likely’ to cause damage or disruption when stopping on a piece of land would be breaking the law. If police constables have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ to consider someone is breaking the law, they would be able to seize their property.
Given the deeply rooted prejudice and negative views of Gypsies and Travellers held across society, there is huge potential for this new legislation to be abused. Far from penalising a ‘small minority’ of people involved in anti-social behaviour, the new offence is a threat to the nomadic way of life.
As the Bill goes through the Parliamentary process in the next weeks, we will be working with other organisations to continue opposing the measures and we’ll give more updates for community members and other allies who want to get involved.
You can find the open letter here.
Friends, Families and Travellers have produced a briefing about the proposals here.