Date: 11 May 2018 at 10:51:33 BST
Subject: Re: Travellers in Poole park
Thank you for your email.
I shall forward your email to the the department concerned.
I shall make a few factual points which may aid your understanding together with the best advice i can give. All of the information here is fully open so feel free to pass on.
Such encampments are not in law illegal. They are unauthorised. This terminology is not splitting hairs, there is a real difference in law. Councils have no powers to evict from unauthorised encampments, nor to prosecute for the issues you outline. Councils have to act within the law.
Under the law, only the courts, and the police, have powers to evict. Only the police have the powers to prosecute for the issues you outline. I repeat: not the council. We have no powers to evict, nor to take the law into our own hands!
If you experience or witness criminal or antisocial behaviour you should contact the police. If you witness any serious crime in progress then you could dial 999.
I would also advise that it is helpful to inform the council with details of criminal and antisocial behaviour along with any evidence you may have, and to keep records, corroborated if possible. I would also advise that you note the police response to any calls for help. The council is not responsible for the actions of the police, they report to the Police and Crime Commissioner who is a separately elected official.
It is not helpful to demand of councils that which they cannot do under the law. Sometimes people lash out at councils in frustration but they are the wrong target for such vitriol. Poole council has a very good record for its management of unauthorised encampments, which usually end with eviction through the courts on council’s application, which is not by any means a straightforward process, else by the travellers simply moving on.
Furthermore, councils, under the law, have legal duties to travellers regarding health and social care, and education.
Poole council sometimes offers portaloos at encampments for the simple reason it is cheaper and more hygienic for all, than the alternative.
As Portfolio Holder I have already made representation to Government concerning the laws surrounding unauthorised encampments and these will form part of a council response to the current consultation by central government on the issue which may result in changes to the law, which the council regards as necessary. I would advise that this consultation is open to all: individuals, public bodies and residents groups included. It is online and you may wish to take the opportunity to relate your experiences there.
As for travellers gaining access, well, at the end of the day, if people are willing to undertake criminal behaviour, and perform criminal damage, either by themselves or by proxy, to enter an area or for any other reason, then in reality only so much can be done to prevent access, though there are always lessons learned.
There are cordless power tools readily available which can grind through even the strongest locks and heavy metalwork in seconds. The use of sacrificial vehicles to smash down defences even at the cost of destroying that vehicle is not unheard of. The use of plant to simply remove heavy boulders is similarly possible. I know of no police investigations leading to conviction for damage to gain entry. The laws and police practice surrounding this, and what should be, in my opinion, joint culpability, will form part of the council’s consultation response.
It is my belief that residents and the press are better served by acting in concert with local authorities in attempting to affect change in the law, rather than lashing out at those who are doing their best to help residents, under the law. Travellers are often highly cognisant of the law and of exactly what powers and duties various bodies have, and of their own rights under the law. It is, in my belief, the laws which has to change in order that councils can protect and serve their residents better in this regard.
Portfolio Holder for the environment.
Councillor, Creekmoor ward, Borough of Poole