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Proposals to criminalise unauthorised encampments and strengthen police powers examined

18 May 2021

Proposals to criminalise unauthorised encampments and strengthen police powers in the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill are to be examined by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.


Wednesday 19 May 2021, virtual meeting

At 3.00pm

Panel one

  • Jake Bowers, journalist and campaigner
  • Martin Gallagher, Irish Traveller and campaigner
  • Philomena Mongan, Irish Traveller and Community Engagement Officer, London Gypsies and Travellers
  • Mark Willers QC, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Panel two

  • Janette McCormick, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller lead, National Police Chiefs Council
  • Bill Forrester, Chair, National Association of Gypsy and Traveller Officers (NAGTO)

The Committee’s legislative scrutiny of the Bill considers whether these proposals undermine the human rights of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provides a right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence. This means that the State shouldn’t interfere unnecessarily with a person’s way of life or their home. Local authorities have obligations under section 6 of the Human Rights Act and Article 8 ECHR to provide adequate sites for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people.

The Bill would criminalise people for living on land even where there is no other adequate site for them to go. It would give officers the power to seize and remove any relevant property, including vehicles, from those they “reasonably suspect” have committed an offence – including seizing a person’s home.

The ECHR also provides that every person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions and that no one shall be deprived of their possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law. The proposals give landowners a role in establishing whether the new offence of criminal trespass has been committed.

Likely areas of discussion include:

  • Existing legislation regarding unauthorised encampments on private or public land
  • Criminalisation of unauthorised encampments with a vehicle
  • The proposed strengthening of police powers
  • Proposals to forfeit property
  • The rights of landowners.

Further information

Image: David Smith/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)