Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Gypsy and Traveller News

The definition of Gypsy and Traveller

Lisa Smith -v- The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Others [2021] EWHC 1650 (Admin) 17 June 2021

The Government’s planning policy for Gypsy and Traveller caravan sites is contained in Planning policy for traveller sites (PPTS). Applicants who are covered by this policy benefit from a number of advantages, including a somewhat more relaxed approach to rural development. In the original version of PPTS, published in 2012, the policy was stated to apply to:

The Criminalisation of Trespass

Police, Crime,  Sentencing and Courts Act

In November 2019, the Home Office launched a consultation entitled ‘Strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments’. This sought views on ‘broadening the existing categories of criminal trespass’. On 8 March 2021, the Government produced its response to that consultation, in which it indicated the intention to introduce a new criminal offence relating to trespass. The new offence was contained in Part 4 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSCB) which received its first reading the next day. The Act received the Royal Assent on 28 April 2022.

Wide Injunctions

LB Barking & Dagenham and others v Persons Unknown and others [2022] EWCA Civ 13, 13 January 2022.

Over the last 6 years, some 38 councils in England have obtained what have become known as ‘borough-wide’ injunctions prohibiting ‘persons unknown’ from camping on numerous sites and large swathes of public land within the boundaries of each local authority. Such injunctions have a disproportionate effect on nomadic Gypsies and Travellers, particularly given the long-standing shortage of lawful sites for them to camp on.

LB Barking & Dagenham and others v Persons Unknown and others

[2022] EWCA Civ 13, 13 January 2022

Over the last 6 years, some 38 councils in England have obtained what have become known as ‘borough-wide’ injunctions prohibiting ‘persons unknown’ from camping on numerous sites and large swathes of public land within the boundaries of each local authority. Such injunctions have a disproportionate effect on nomadic Gypsies and Travellers, particularly given the long-standing shortage of lawful sites for them to camp on.

The Criminalisation of Trespass – Latest Update

The Home Office has recently produced draft guidance for Police with regard to the new powers contained in Part 4 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. See the link here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1026903/Draft_stat_guidance_UEs.pdf

We believe that this draft guidance will be totally ineffective in avoiding the disastrous consequences of the criminalisation of trespass and we maintain the position taken in our previous blog on this matter. See link here: http://www.communitylawpartnership.co.uk/news/the-criminalisation-of-trespass

Abuse of Process

B Havering & ors v Persons Unknown & ors [2021] EWHC 2648 (QB)

When laying down very important principles for local authorities when seeking wide injunction orders against Gypsy and Traveller encampments in his judgment of 12 May 2021 ( see LB Barking & Dagenham & ors v Persons Unknown & ors [2021] EWHC 1201 (QB) – and see our article on this matter at http://www.communitylawpartnership.co.uk/news/press-release-is-this-the-end-of-the-wide-injunction), Nicklin J was also very critical of four local authorities who, having obtained interim orders, failed to progress those to final hearings. He directed that those cases (and also a case for another local authority, Test Valley BC, where only directions were required for a final hearing) should be listed for a hearing to decided whether or not there had been an abuse of process.

Challenging CRT’s New Terms and Conditions

CLP were instructed by the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) to challenge the new Boat Licence Terms and Conditions that have been brought in as of 24 May 2021 by Canal & River Trust (CRT) and to also challenge the way the consultation process was carried out. Despite the best efforts of NBTA, other boat dwellers and support organisations, ourselves and our Barrister on this matter, CRT has not agreed to change any of the terms and conditions that we believe are adverse especially to liveaboard boaters.

It is unlikely that the NBTA will be able to take the case any further itself.

We are therefore looking for liveaboard boaters who are affected adversely by these changes and who are likely to qualify for Legal Aid (i.e. on a low income or on benefits) to take this matter forward.

Though CRT announced on 24 May 2021 that the new terms and conditions were coming into force, they are, of course, only being imposed on boaters when their Boat Licence comes up for renewal. If you are interested in discussing this possible challenge, please phone us on our Travellers Advice Line which is 0121 685 8677 and is open Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 1.00 pm.

Mead Lane Moorings

The Travellers’ Advice Team at CLP were instructed by a liveaboard boater who resorts to the River Avon and the Kennet and Avon Canal. She has what Canal & River Trust (CRT) describe as a ‘continuous cruising licence’ which means she has to move her boat ‘bona fide for navigation’ in terms of the British Waterways Act 1995. This means she cannot remain in the same place for more than 14 days apart from in exceptional circumstances.

Definition of Gypsy and Traveller

Lisa Smith -v- The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Others [2021] EWHC 1650 (Admin) 17 June 2021

Between 2006 and 2015, planning policies included within the definition of ‘Gypsies and Travellers’ those who had either temporarily or permanently ceased to travel by reason of health, education or old age. By a revised planning policy issued in August 2015, the Department for Communities and Local Government modified the definition to remove the reference to those who had permanently ceased to travel for such reasons. Lisa Smith, a Romany Gypsy who lives with her extended family in caravans on a private site in Leicestershire, challenged the lawfulness of the 2015 policy following a Planning Inspector refusing her planning appeal because she did not come within the definition. As a result the Planning Inspector concluded that the application by Ms Smith did not benefit from the more permissive planning regime contained in Planning policy for traveller sites.

Mr Justice Pepperall dismissed her appeal. Originally Ms Smith appealed on another ground, aside from the challenge to the alleged unlawfulness of the definition, but she is no longer pursuing that other ground.