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On May 12, High Court judge Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that councils can only enforce permanent bans against people they can identify, which have consequences on all areas of enforcement.
Bans against “persons unknown” can be granted as a stop-gap measure while the council works to identify them but only in exceptional cases, such as where there is “real and immediate risk of serious physical harm or death”.
A ban granted to Redbridge Council in 2018 which forbids “persons unknown” from camping on public land in the borough thus no longer applies to anyone but the original defendants.
Havering Council, granted an interim ban against persons unknown in 2019 while waiting for a final hearing, must decide whether to continue with or drop its claim.
Debby Kennett, from campaign group London Gypsies and Travellers, said: “We are proud to be involved in this hugely important case which scrutinised the catch-all injunctions which have effectively banned Gypsies and Travellers from stopping in large areas of the country.
“The judgment reinforces the fact that Gypsies and Travellers have the right to a nomadic way of life and we continue to push for positive alternatives to evictions and injunctions.”
Mattey Mitchell, of Friends, Families and Travellers, added: “This is a wonderful victory for justice, fairness and equality in a nation that prides itself on these values.
“Collective punishment should be a thing of the past, especially when it impacts communities already facing such harsh inequalities.
“Justice Nicklin’s judgement today is a breath of fresh air in what can sometimes feel like a hopelessly hostile environment.”
Redbridge Council now has “a short period in which to identify” any defendants from its ban, while Havering Council must proceed “speedily to a final hearing” against named persons, if it wants to uphold its own ban.
Responding to the news, a spokesperson for Redbridge Council said that in 2018 the High Court had been “satisfied that correct procedural steps had been taken” when granting its ban.
They said: “The recent High Court proceedings did not consider the evidence previously before the Court.
“The recent decision represents a change in the law, and alters the effect of any and all claims against ‘persons unknown’. It is not limited to what have been labelled ‘Travellers Injunctions’.
“As this represents a change in law, the council will consider the impact of this judgment, and any appeal, and proceed appropriately thereafter.”
Responding on behalf of Havering Council, cabinet member Cllr Viddy Persaud said: “Havering Council has correctly followed all proper procedures for their application for an interim injunction order
“The judgment handed down by the High Court at 129 pages is substantial and the council needs to consider the full implications of the judgment, including our options for appeal.”