Gypsy and Traveller encampment on your land - options
The first step is for you to decide whether the encampment will be tolerated. If you want the Gypsies or Travellers to leave we advise you to follow the steps below. This sets out the procedure using common law which in most cases will be the quickest and most appropriate method.
To effectively move Gypsies and Travellers on you will need to use a suitably qualified and experienced Enforcement Agent who will take care of the processes for you.
Enforcement Agents we have used in the past are:
Bryan Lecoche Ltd
01234 824570 or 07803 402160 (24 hours)
Steps to evict an encampment using Common Law
Step one: Appoint a suitably qualified Enforcement Agent. If you choose not to you will need to carry out the process yourself.
Step two: The Enforcement Agent will make a request for the Gypsies or Travellers to leave the land. This is normally done by service a written Notice on them. There is no statutory requirement to give them a minimum or maximum period of time in which to leave, but 24 hours would normally be appropriate. The Notice should also identify the name of the landowner, the boundaries of the land (including a map if possible) and contact details for the Enforcement Agents who would normally deal with the preparation and service of the Notice. The Notice should also set out consequences of failing to leave the land – i.e. that trespassers and vehicles and caravans may be forcibly removed. It should be handed to an adult on the site. If there is no adult present it should be fixed in visible and prominent positions around the site.
Step Three: Once the Notice has expired the Enforcement Agents will either request that you inform them whether or not it has been complied with or they will return to the land to check whether the Gypsies or Travellers have left. If they have not moved on the Enforcement Agents may use reasonable and proportionate force to evict them from the land if they still fail to leave voluntarily. The Enforcement Agents and landowner can request the police to attend the eviction if it is likely that a breach of the peace might occur, but the police will not actively assist with the eviction or commit resources to it. It may be the case that the trespassers have allegedly committed criminal offences or been responsible for unsociable behaviour which should be reported to the police and may provide them with sufficient cause to use their own powers. This is covered below.
In all cases where legal action is being considered it is also recommended that you seek suitably qualified legal advice.
Additional support for Parish Councils
We will help parish councils clear up public land they are responsible for, such as a recreation ground, village green or playing field, after an illegal encampment moves on. This may involve collecting bagged litter or helping with litter picking. We will also provide parish councils with details for specialist cleaning contractors if they are needed.
Further legal advice can also be given by The National Association of Local Councils. This service is available to parish councils who subscribe.
Alternative option for the eviction of an illegal encampment
In some cases it may be more appropriate to move on an illegal encampment through formal court proceedings by obtaining a possession order. This is known as Possession Proceedings Under Section 55 - eviction by writ of possession. This method is generally used when it is unlikely the group will be compliant and/or the number of trespassers is higher.
Court Orders including High Court Writs of Possession can also be used against trespassers. Having obtained an Order for Possession in the County Court you can wait for the County Court bailiffs to execute it or if you transfer it up to the High Court it can be fast tracked by way of a Writ of Possession. The process is not as fast as the Common Law and will require a solicitor to deal with the application to the County Court for the initial Possession Order.
Obtaining a Writ after that point can be very quick and it may be possible to have a Writ issued on the day that the Order itself is granted. Once the Writ is issued, it can normally be enforced immediately.Dependent on the number of trespassers and the extent to which they are ‘entrenched’ upon the land, it may be necessary to carry out a risk assessment to identify the situation, aims, specific risks, actions and key contacts in relation to the eviction. If the police are likely to be in attendance, the risk assessment will generally form part of the briefing process.
One of the benefits of carrying out evictions under a Writ of Possession is that the police are obligated to assist with enforcement. This duty is contained within Paragraph 5, Schedule 7 of The Courts Act (2003) which states that:
“It is the duty of every constable, at the request of:
(a) An enforcement officer, or (b) a person acting under the officer’s authority to assist the officer or that person in the execution of a writ or warrant. Section 10 of the Criminal Law Act (1977) also makes it an offence to obstruct an Enforcement Officer in the execution of a High Court Writ.”
It should be noted that the police will not always have resource available to attend at short notice and it may be necessary to work to their timeframes. Issuing possession proceedings and enforcing with a Writ also provides a court sanction for the eviction, which can help to improve public perception with regard to the legitimacy of the process.