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All six of Worcestershire's MPs have signed a plea to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke calling for new powers for the police to cope with threatened or actual encampments of travellers on locations where they are trespassing or intend to do so.

The letter follows growing local concern over illegal encampments and a period of consultation between the MPs, local police and district and county councils.

In the letter, Peter Luff (Mid Worcestershire), Robin Walker (Worcester), Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire), Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest), Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove) and Karen Lumley (Redditch) write,

"In Worcestershire, there have been a number of incidents over the last year or so which have served to highlight the need for additional powers to supplement those already in Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. We have seen persistent incursions onto land in the County and the need for the police and local authorities in partnership to take action to seek to remove the individuals concerned. In many cases the numbers can be quite large and we have been experiencing intentional and repetitive trespass. These incidents result in significant diversion of resources, clean up costs and often additional expenditure to make land more secure.

"It is often difficult to deal with the expectations of the public in terms of the reasonableness and proportionality of any response to trespass. In some cases we have seen encampments on residential estates and in one case on a youth football club site, which are highly emotive.

"Section 61 powers should be a last resort and involve significant resources by police and partners to ensure they are implemented properly.

“One of the most expedient ways of dealing with trespass would be to ensure the Police have the ability to prevent it in the first place. In this respect, our discussions with West Mercia Police and our local authorities have led us to conclude that a supplemental provision to Section 61 is needed to allow the Police to have a power of direction. This would firstly confirm to those arriving at a site that unless they have demonstrable proof that the landowner is willing for them to occupy the land then they will not be allowed to enter and secondly, it would allow the Police to stipulate to those concerned areas in the vicinity where they should not go (as often they will re-appear on a site very close when removed from a parcel of land).

“As always, such a provision would need to be implemented proportionately. Sanctions for disregard of this provision would need to be available (if possible permanent seizure of vehicles).

“We have discussed with West Mercia Police and our local authorities a more radical approach of including a new criminal offence of intentional trespass (which was mentioned in the Conservative Open Source Planning Green Paper). We recognise the difficulties of such a blanket provision but would welcome your views.

“Finally, one of the more emotive issues in terms of trespass is the state of the site after it has been vacated. We are advised by our local authorities that the onus generally falls on them (as most events are on public land of one sort or another) to meet the clean up costs which can be significant if there is damage to the site as well as all the detritus that has to be removed (in the recent events in the County sometimes excrement has been evident). This probably isn’t a matter for criminal law but it would be beneficial to look at the civil law to see if liability could readily be attached to those occupying the site either jointly or severity.”

Commenting, Peter Luff said,

“I am delighted we have all been able to come together in this way to make this powerful case to Ken Clarke. The incidents of unacceptable behaviour we have seen in the county this year have highlighted the need for action. Our proposals are sensible, deliverable and proportionate. I look forward to reading the Justice Secretary’s response.”


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