Legislation is currently progressing through Parliament that will create a new criminal offence of ‘intentional trespass’.
Currently, trespass is treated as a civil offence, which requires landowners or local authorities to seek a court order to evict people if they are occupying private or public land, the process is time consuming, confusing and often slow.
If the new law gets approval, it will become a criminal offence and Councils will in the first instance be able to order people to move to a local or neighbouring local authority site.
If an illegal occupier refuses to comply, the police will intervene and those in breach could face a three-month prison sentence and/or a fine of up to £2,500. The new law is being piloted through Parliament by Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Philip Allott the Conservative Candidate for May’s North Yorkshire and York Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner election, has welcomed plans for a new law this year that will prevent travellers from setting up camp on private land.
The government is keen to increase local authority and police powers to force people to move on from illegal encampments. These so-called unofficial camps often spring up overnight and then cause misery for local residents, sometimes for months.
If elected, enforcing the legislation will be part of my crime plan because it is one of the hot issues. Nobody wants illegal encampments after local authorities have invested substantial Council tax sums building legal camps, and illegal encampments can really scare people.
Obviously, there is a need for some balancing when Parliament debates the legislation, which is a Conservative manifesto commitment because we must not by the law of unintended consequences accidently restrict the rights of people to access and walk in the countryside.