Nasty work if you can get it

4 November 2014
Dale Farm

The UK's most notorious anti-Gypsy security firm, responsible for the brutal Twin Oaks eviction in 2004, says it expects to take on the biggest clearance operation ever mounted against a village community in Britain in modern times.
Constant & Co., which has earned tens of millions of euro clearing Gypsies from their own land, now wants the contract to demolish Dale Farm, home to 500 Irish Travellers near Crays Hill, Essex.
The job, worth three million euro, would involve removing, and in some plots smashing, chalets and mobile-homes, and physically forcing up to 90 families, including children, the elderly and infirm, to leave the district with nowhere legally to live.
Along with their homes and children's primary school, the families stand to lose their unique youth-club community centre and Saint Christopher's Chapel.
"This is ethnic-cleansing," said one voluntary worker who visits Dale Farm. "But the council are trying to disguise that fact with a lot of politically correct language."
Because of the high cost of the work, Basildon have been compelled to put it out to tender in the official Journal of the European Union. The closing date for bids is mid-August. 

Dale Farm Protests
Dale Farm Protests

In its ad the council states that the winner bidder must 'demonstrate a commitment to upholding the principles of equality and diversity legislation and be sensitive and responsive to the needs of people. However, Basildon has already indicated it favours re-engagement of Constant, a firm the council has already employed for a number of small evictions. Critics say these were conducted in a way that flaunted EU health and safety regulations, and resulted in the destruction of private belongings.  Photographic and video evidence from previous evictions illustrate how at Hovefields
no perimeter fencing was erected and children were allowed in close proximity when heavy machinery was in motion.
While the council justified its use of s178 of the Town and Country Planning Act to restore Greenbelt, land at Hovefields has been left derelict.
Top-soil has been destroyed and the plots surrounded by high earth bounds. Much of the ground is now flooded with contaminated water from
broken cess-tanks, posing a danger to health for children and adults who continue to live nearby while awaiting further Constant incursions.
A film produced for Dale Farm Housing Association shows caravans on fire as bailiffs manhandle screaming children. One plant-hire company has discontinued renting to Constant, branding its approach brutal.
Referring to the Twin Oaks eviction, Justice Collins said in the High Court that having seen a video of Constant at work he considered the bailiffs' conduct unacceptable as it inevitably led to harm to those affected.
"The council must re-consider the use of this firm," stated Justice Collins. He also noted that the police had failed to curb the excesses of Constant bailiffs.
Collins added that in cases of serious ill-health or needs of children, eviction would be disproportionate. Although the right to evict has since been upheld the conditions he attached were adopted in a complex Court of Appeal ruling earlier this year.
Requested under the Freedom of Information Act to provide copies of its obligatory Risk Assessment reports for the Hovefields and Dale Farm evictions, Basildon has admitted that no such surveys have been carried out.
Jean Sheridan, a Dale Farm mother of triplets, is fearful of the trauma bailiffs could cause her babes. She hopes that before Constant is ordered in she will be able  to mount a case in the European Court of Human Rights.
"We have nowhere else to go and my babes need medical help," Jean says. "They were born prematurely and lucky to live. How will they survive the terrors Constant will bring?"
The UK Children's Commissioner has asked Basildon what it intends to do to safeguard children during demolition and what alternate accommodation is being offered them. No satisfactory answer has yet been received.

By Grattan Puxon