Police take enforcement action to remove unauthorised encampment in Southend

Essex Police and Southend Borough Council are continuing to work together to address the issue of unauthorised traveller encampments and minimise their impact on local communities.

Following liaison between police, council, and the landowner, an encampment in the Kursaal area was served a Section 61 notice and directed to leave, which it did this morning.

Further work between police and the council has ensured the encampment has now moved out of Essex.

Chief Inspector Ian Hughes, District Commander for Southend, said: “We know that where unauthorised traveller encampments occur there can, on occasion, be disruption to the local community and we work with our partners to resolve the situation.

“Unauthorised encampments are a civil act of trespass and the landowner has powers, in the first instance, to get it to move on.

“Where the landowner has taken reasonable steps to get an encampment to move on and has been unsuccessful, the police may get involved.

“Where reports of crimes take place we will investigate, but I want to stress that we do see unauthorised encampments which do not have an impact on our communities, do not leave any waste or rubbish once they’ve moved on, and are polite and friendly.”

Cllr Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, says: “We do understand the frustrations of local residents and businesses where unauthorised encampments occur.

“However, there is a legal process that has to be followed in all cases. In this particular situation, we worked with Essex Police to help them make contact with the intermediate landlord, who were legally responsible for taking reasonable steps to get the encampment to move on.

“We also provided community safety officers to work alongside the police to provide reassurance to the community.

“Although this latest issue has now been resolved, we continue to encourage the landlord to improve security at this site.

“Where unauthorised encampments occur on council land such as parks and open spaces, we are the responsible landowner and will also take swift and appropriate action under the legal powers available to us.”

When do the police get involved?

Unauthorised encampments are a civil matter of trespass and, in the first instance, landowners have powers to get an encampment to move.

When one is reported, police will speak to the travellers, the landowner and relevant local authorities. They will assess the site and work with partners and landowners to ensure the most appropriate response according to the individual circumstances of each case.

Policing powers an only be used under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act when a landowner has taken reasonable steps to ask an encampment to leave, and there is damaged caused to land or property on that land, or threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour have been used towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent, or there are six or more vehicles on the land.

Police will then review guidance from the National Police Chief’s Council to ensure using the powers is proportionate.

The guidance states forces should consider becoming involved in bringing about the prompt and lawful removal of unauthorised encampments, including the use of police powers under Section 61 or 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, where:

  • the encampment is depriving a community of a local amenity or there is a significant impact on the environment;
  • there is disruption to the local economy;
  • there is significant disruption to the local community or environment;
  • there is a danger to life;
  • the group involved has displayed persistent anti-social behaviour at previous sites and it is reasonable to believe they will do so at this new site.

Police will investigate any reports of criminal offences and anti-social behaviour.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]