Public concern about unauthorised traveller groups continues to cause controversy. Thurrock Council and Essex Police wish to make the position clear. While we understand the concerns, we need to explain our responsibilities to the community at large.
A nomadic lifestyle is recognised as a legitimate and traditional way of life. Travellers have a right to pursue that lifestyle. However, as with any member of the settled community, they are expected to behave in an acceptable way without causing nuisance to others and are subject to the same laws.
The Joint Protocol for Unauthorised Encampments of Travellers in Thurrock between Thurrock Council and Thurrock Police, can be viewed via the link below (please see how to access PDFs):
The following information outlines the powers and duties of the council and the police in dealing with travellers:
COUNCIL POWERS - Officers visit the site immediately to decide how to deal with the situation. When a decision is made to move travellers on, an application is made to the County Court for a Possession Order within a few days. If it is granted, a court bailiff will evict the travellers. This process usually takes two to three weeks.
POLICE POWERS - It is not a crime to occupy a piece of land without permission. However, The Criminal Justice and Pubic Order Act 1994 gives the police a discretionary power to remove trespassers from land where there are six or more vehicles and where people have caused damage or used threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour. This discretionary power must be justifiable in court, and stated case law means a serious disruption to the community and increase in crime levels must be proved prior to its use. As well as this, Articles 5 and 9 of the Human Rights Act (Right to Liberty and Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion) must also be upheld.
COUNCIL POWERS - In certain situations, the council can take action to require individually identified travellers to move on. The quickest and most direct method is for the landowner to apply to the County Court for a Possession Order in the same way as the council does for its own land. The council offers advice and support on this procedure. If the ownership of the land cannot be established, the council will consider use of its powers.
POLICE POWERS - These remain the same regardless of who owns the land.
The council and the police liaise with each other. While travellers remain on the land, the site is constantly monitored. After a council site has been vacated, it will be cleared up and secured as soon as possible. In the case of a privately owned site, the council encourages the landowner to do the same.
The Government has ultimate responsibility for traveller policy and laws. It issues guidelines to every local authority in the country about how members of the travelling community should be dealt with. To find out more, visit Gov.uk: dealing with illegal and unauthorised encampments - a summary of available powers.