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Travellers: Tackling unauthorised encampment

View profile for Harriet Durn
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The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 has introduced a new offence in England and Wales which relates to unauthorised encampment on land without consent, in or without a vehicle.

Unauthorised encampment is where trespassers set up home on land belonging to private landowners or public authorities without the landowner's permission. The offence will be committed if an individual or group aged 18 or over:

  1. Resides or intends to reside on land without the consent of the landowner;
  2. has, or intends to have, a vehicle with them;
  3. causes or is likely to cause significant damage, disruption or distress; and
  4. fails to leave or remove their property without reasonable excuse when requested to do so by the landowner or police.

The new provisions do not relate to rough sleepers or those accessing the countryside for leisure. Instead, it targets anyone who refuses to leave land and causes harm.

Travellers and unauthorised encampment

Remedies

The civil remedy of seeking a Possession Order, which can then be enforced with the assistance of bailiffs is a route often pursued by landowners faced with trespassers. The application to Court can include a claim for damages as well as an injunction to prevent the trespass being repeated.

The new offence that is to be introduced by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 will provide landowners with additional or alternative powers and authorise the Police to make a direction to leave against:

  1. All trespassers even if the damage, disruption or distress is caused by only one member of the encampment, providing there are two or more trespassers on the land with the purpose of residing; and
     
  2. All trespassers where there is no damage, disruption or distress caused but there are six or more vehicles on the land.

Police will also be able to exercise powers of arrest and seizure in relation to the offence, which include the power to seize a vehicle.

The introduction of the offence under the Act will likely be welcomed by many landowners and local authorities in providing additional recourse when faced with unauthorised encampments involving vehicles. It is important to take professional advice promptly so that a combined civil and criminal approach can be taken to regain possession of the land at the earliest opportunity, with minimal adverse effects.

If you have any questions in relation to issues raised in this article, please contact Harriet Durn or Andrew Turner in the Property Litigation Team, at aet@hughes-paddison.co.uk or on 01242 586 841.

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