Chris Johnson, senior partner at Gypsy and Traveller law specialists Community Law Partnership, compares the new police chiefs’ guidance on police powers and unauthorised encampments with the old guidance that it replaces.
In June 2018 the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) introduced new guidance on unauthorised encampments, Operational Advice on Unauthorised Encampments, to replace the previous Association of Chief Police Officers’ Guidance on Unauthorised Encampments (2011). The new NPCC Advice can be found here: http://www.npcc.police.uk/documents/Unauthorised%20Encampments/NPCC%20Op%20Advice%20on%20Unauthorised%20Encampments_June%2018.pdf
The new Advice largely replicates the old guidance. We highlight the two main differences here.
Under ‘Working with other agencies’ (page 8) it is stated:
…forces and local authorities should also consider working with other major landowners in their areas to agree similar protocols for the management of unauthorised encampments. Other major landowners may include Housing Associations, the National Trust or local farmers.
A flow chart for Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 s62A evictions is added in at Appendix E.
There are a few other relatively minor changes.
The NPCC Advice is essential reading for anyone advising Gypsies and Travellers about evictions from unauthorised encampments. The Advice covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
At page 3, paragraph 7 it states:
Decisions to evict or not must, of course, be balanced (as directed by legislation and Government guidance), and be compliant with the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998, demonstrating legality, necessity, and proportionality, as well as principles of common humanity.
There is an important recognition of the position on the ground at page 4, paragraph 9:
In managing unauthorised encampments officers must be sensitive to the fact that there is a lack of pitches on authorised sites across the country, making it difficult or even impossible for people to avoid setting up unauthorised pitches.
Page 5, paragraph 4 makes it clear that the police themselves should take account of welfare considerations:
Initial contact should be made with the people on the site, and an assessment made of the impact of its location, as well as the behaviour displayed by the occupants. The occupants should be spoken to in order to establish their identities and location of last site, and to ascertain their views on desired duration of stay as well as any pressing welfare needs.
Very importantly page 5, paragraph 7 indicates that eviction using police powers should only take place when justified:
Officers should assess whether the location of the encampment, behaviour of residents or needs of the landowner justifies an eviction using police powers.
Page 6, paragraph 11 states that:
Assessment visits should only log details of vehicles and people where there are grounds to suspect those individuals of anti-social behaviour or criminal activity.
Page 7, paragraph 2 states that:
The allegation of a crime or identification of an individual suspect at an encampment should not be grounds alone for consideration of a full group eviction.
Page 7, paragraph 3 states that:
Where occupants at unauthorised encampments are victims of crime or anti-social behaviour, they must be given access to services in the usual way. If there is a perception that the incident is racially motivated then the matter should be dealt with in line with Hate Crime policy.
Joint agency protocols are recommended at page 8, paragraph 1 and it is stressed at page 8, paragraph 3 that:
The lead role for decision making should rest with the local authority and the use of police powers should not normally be considered as a first response.
By Chris Johnson
Community Law Partnership provides a free legal advice line service for Gypsies and Travellers facing eviction or other housing, planning and accommodation matters. Find out more about the Travellers’ Advice Team by clicking on the link below: