TAT provide advice, assistance and representation throughout England and Wales. We do not cover Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, in his ongoing work on the Legal Action book on Gypsy and Traveller law, of which he is co-editor, Chris Johnson had reference to the latest version of the Police Scotland Guidance Gypsies/Travellers Management of Unauthorised Encampments : Standard Operating Procedure (2014). This Guidance is extremely positive in the way it approaches the issue of unauthorised encampments and we hope that the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), who are considering their own Guidance which covers England and Wales, will have reference to the Scottish Guidance. To take just one example:-
6.4 Although unauthorised encampment is a criminal offence, in accordance with the Scottish Government Guidelines for Managing Unauthorised Camping by Gypsies/Travellers in Scotland, there is a general presumption against prosecution of Gypsies/Travellers for setting up unauthorised encampments. Prosecution will only be considered when:-
a) A suitable alternative stopping place has been identified and the Gypsies/Travellers have refused to re-locate within a reasonable time (it is the responsibility of the local authority to identify the stopping place. The Police have no power to do this); or b) Where the use of a particular site by Gypsies/Travellers, or the excessive size of the encampment, causes a severe road safety or public health hazard; or
c) Where the same Gypsies/Travellers have been repeatedly evicted from a site by the local authority and return after a short time.
6.5 Failure by a Local Authority to assess or make provision for the needs of Gypsies/Travellers will serve to reinforce the presumption against prosecution. However, the presumption may be overridden by other public interest considerations arguing in favour of prosecution. This may include serious disruption to businesses and/or members of the public as a result of offensive or criminal behaviour by Gypsies/Travellers.