Criminalisation of trespass becomes law

On 27th April 2022 the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill received Royal Assent and has become law. Part Four of the Act makes trespass a criminal offence for the first time. Campaigners against the new law say that this is a direct attack on the traditional way of life of Gypsy and Traveller communities. The NBTA stands in solidarity with the rights of all nomadic people.

Boats are not covered by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. The National Inland Navigation Forum obtained legal advice last year that although on initial reading the Bill appeared capable of including boats, the definition of “vehicle” under the Act has been drafted to cover only vehicles which are expressly intended to be used on the road, including caravans.

The Act creates the new offence under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 of “residing or intending to reside on land without consent in or with a vehicle”. It also amends the existing police powers in the 1994 Act to lower the threshold at which the powers can be used, thereby allowing police to remove unauthorised encampments on, or partly on, highways and to prohibit unauthorised encampments moved from a site from returning within 12 months. Yet the Act does nothing to address the very severe shortfall in lawful temporary and permanent stopping places that Travelling communities can live on.

A new campaign group, Drive 2 Survive, was set up to try to stop the Bill becoming law. Many other Travelling community organisations and supporters, including the NBTA, were involved in action opposing this draconian new law. The campaign will now move to providing mobile human rights advocates to advise people of their rights when having the new law enforced against them, and to gather evidence of human rights abuses with a view to bringing strategic legal challenges against the harsh new law.

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