Travellers could be jailed for pitching illegal camps

Charles Hymas
·2 min read
Police will get powers to seize vehicles and arrest offenders who refuse to move off private land - David Rose
Police will get powers to seize vehicles and arrest offenders who refuse to move off private land - David Rose

Travellers face up to three months in jail if they set up unauthorised camps under a new law that will make intentional trespass a criminal offence.

Police will get powers to seize vehicles and arrest offenders who refuse to move off private land when asked.

The new offence - under which those found guilty will face £2,500 fines as well as a potential jail sentence - will be tightly defined so that it is not applicable to occasional campers, hikers or ramblers who stray on to private land.

The proposals, to be announced on Tuesday, will be included in a Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will also enact Boris Johnson's plans to impose longer sentences on serious offenders, including life terms for killers of children and those aged 18-20, and an end to early release for those jailed for more than four years.

Police will also get powers to stop and search anyone with a conviction for possessing a knife, and there will be measures to bar "digital strip searches" of rape victims, under a law to prevent investigators trawling their sex lives.

At present, trespass is a civil offence, forcing landowners to fight lengthy court battles. It is estimated there are some 23,000 traveller caravans in England, of which 14 per cent are parked on unauthorised sites.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said: "I am delivering on my commitment to give the police the powers they need to tackle these encampments swiftly and effectively." Police will also get powers to direct trespassers away from land under amendments to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Government recognises people's right to a nomadic life, but this must be balanced against the rights of landowners and local communities."

The charity Friends, Families and Travellers said it was "deeply unfair" of the Government to create new laws to imprison and fine travellers when it had failed to identify enough land on which they could live.