Thursfields comments on new law criminalising travellers camping on land without permission

New legislation now makes it a criminal offence for people with vehicles to camp out on land without permission.

New Law

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which was passed into law at the end of June, includes new powers to deal with trespassers, making it clearer for all concerned.

Jon Clifford, a director in the Dispute Resolution department at Thursfields, explained that the act covers unauthorised camps on private and public land (including, for the first time, highways), which should enable the police in England and Wales to take faster action against travellers.

Jon said: “The provisions of this new law on trespass creates a new offence of ‘residing on land without consent in or with a vehicle’.

“In short, an offence is committed if someone sets up camp unlawfully, with a vehicle, on another person’s land, and refuses to leave, when asked by the police or the landowner.”

Prior to this, as many land owners will have found to their cost, the rules were unclear and, even where the police did have powers, these were often not enforced. The result was that certain travellers might “play the game”, tying up valuable court time and resources dealing with applications for orders for possession.

Given the delay, the land owner was often left with a large bill for the court process, as well as facing clean-up costs for the land.

Jon said that the act contains helpful guidance as to what might constitute an offence, such as:

  • excessive littering, noise or smell, including bonfire smoke
  • a local resident being verbally abused or intimidated
  • local communities being prevented from accessing sports fields, parks or car parks, and
  • damage to property on the land, or to the land itself.

“The penalty for refusal to leave is up to three months in prison, a fine of up to £2,500 and/or seizure of the vehicle.”

“This new legislation will be welcomed by local authorities, agricultural businesses, and commercial landlords and tenants, as travellers are regularly known to occupy areas including playing fields, farmland and business parks.

“The new law makes it a criminal offence to engage in these activities and gives police the powers to act more swiftly and decisively. By using the legislation properly they could build up a more meaningful deterrent against what can often be the damaging behaviour of travellers.”

In need of help or advice?

Anyone seeking advice on disputes with travellers can contact Jon Clifford on 0345 20 73 72 8 or by e-mailing jclifford@thursfields.co.uk.

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