Derbyshire police chief welcomes Government plans to tackle illegal encampments
Derbyshire's Police and Crime Commissioner has welcomed proposed measures announced by the Government to tackle illegal encampments.
The Government is set to bring in a new criminal offence of intentional trespass applying to anyone aged 18 or over who resides or intends to reside on land without consent.
It will also amend the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the types of harm included within the legislation to include damage, disruption and distress.
Since becoming Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner earlier this year, Angelique Foster has been contacted by residents concerned about illegal encampments locally and the impact of these on their communities.
She said: “People have told me that illegal encampments impact on the quality of local life.
“I want to ensure the rights of local residents are balanced against the needs of the travelling community.
“It is important to act swiftly and effectively and ensure residents feel supported.
“I am taking the issue very seriously and am pleased the Government is taking action to address these problems nationally, recognising the distress and misery for those communities living near an unauthorised encampment.
"There is a clear commitment between all partners to devise a more effective system to enable illegal encampments to be identified and removed quickly.
"The introduction of new legislation means the police will be better placed to deal with challenging issues and support that process.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Police will be given powers to seize vehicles and arrest offenders. The measures will target harmful encampments which reflect badly on the wider nomadic community as a whole, the majority of whom are law-abiding.”
Gypsy and Traveller campaigners have reacted to the Government’s announcement with anger.
“You are criminalising a problem that has been created by the failings of a political will to deliver appropriate accommodation,” Joseph Jones, of the Gypsy Council, told Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Nearly £10,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on removing and cleaning up after Travellers who illegally set up camp on playing fields at North Side, Tupton, in July.
Councillors said the Travellers caused damage to a gate and the fields, forced the cancellation of events and activities, and left human excrement at the site.