Eleven organisations supporting Gypsies and Travellers, including LGT, have urged Home Secretary Priti Patel to withdraw the current consultation on criminalising trespass and strengthening police powers to evict.
A letter to the Home Office sent last week by the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups challenges the consultation because it fails to comply with the government’s own principles for consultation. The questions are ambiguous and misleading, say the groups, and the consultation fails to include other options apart from criminalising trespass. For example, there are no questions about making more site provision or alternatives to eviction such as negotiated stopping.
The groups also point out that, in the light of a recent legal ruling in favour of Gypsies and Travellers, the automatic criminalisation of trespass would be a breach of human rights and equality legislation. Last month, the Court of Appeal ruled against Bromley council’s “wide injunction” which banned Gypsies and Travellers from camping on open land in the borough.
The Judges concluded that “the Gypsy and Traveller community have an enshrined freedom not to stay in one place but to move from one place to another. An injunction which prevents them from stopping at all in a defined part of the UK comprises a potential breach of both the Convention and the Equality Act.”
‘The Court of Appeal judgment is very significant as it implies that criminalising trespass would be unlawful. The ruling was very timely given the current consultation, which has been criticised previously by our organisations and in the media. The judgment brings another strong consideration for the Home Office to take into account’, says Ilinca Diaconescu, LGT’s Policy Officer.
The other organisations which signed the letter are: Friends, Families and Travellers; Traveller Movement; Leeds GATE; Travelling Ahead; Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group; Irish Community Care; GATE Herts; York Travellers Trust; ACERT; Brentwood Gypsy Support Group and Liberty.