Police and Crime Commissioner urges MPs to strengthen the law on travellers
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has
urged MPs to back stronger powers to tackle the issue of
unauthorised traveller encampments, when the issue is debated in
parliament next week.
There were an estimated 395 unauthorised encampments in the West
Midlands in 2016, more than doubling from 189 in 2011.
The PCC held a wide-ranging summit on how to tackle unauthorised
traveller encampments earlier this year, attended by MPs, other
PCCs, senior police officers, council officials and members of the
The Police and Crime Commissioner wants MPs to back proposals
- More Transit Sites across the region:
Transit sites crucially unlock policing powers that make it
quicker and easier to evict people from unauthorised encampments.
They are proven to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments in
an area and allow the police to ban groups from entire council
areas if they refuse to use an available transit site. A transit
site can charge for rent and require a deposit, enabling it to pay
- Stronger powers for police:
At the moment, police can only direct difficult travelling
groups to a transit site within a council area. If these groups
could be directed by the police to neighbouring transit sites, or
those nearby, then the power could better serve the wider area.
Council borders are administrative, but not always relevant to
local people. A change in the law to allow police to direct groups
to transit sites in the wider area would be fairer and more
Banning the worst groups, who engage in criminal activity from
the whole West Midlands area for three months at a time would be a
serious deterrent. Currently, there is no easy way to stop an
anti-social group from unleashing misery by travelling between and
within each local council area until they are moved on.
- Better protection for businesses and private
MPs are asked to consider supporting legislative change that
protects private landowners from being repeat victims of
unauthorised traveller encampments, through making sanctions
available for travelling groups that return to the same private
land. Reducing the time taken for evictions would also improve the
- Injunctions that cover larger areas:
Injunctions have been made in court both banning
unauthorised encampments on pieces of land, as well as banning
individuals from establishing encampments in a borough. So far,
these injunctions have only been achieved by individual local
councils, though if a family are causing issues in part of the
Black Country, we know that same family will often prove difficult
in Birmingham, Solihull or Coventry. Once again a regional approach
would improve the situation, banning individuals for up to two
years from the West Midlands instead of a single council. So much
time and money is spent on obtaining court injunctions, which is
why it would be beneficial to see them support local residents
across the entire West Midlands.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson
"This will be a significant opportunity for MPs to raise the issue
of unauthorised traveller encampments and the weakness of policing
powers on the issue. I hope local MPs push the Government to take
the urgent action we need.
"My postbag and inbox are filled, each week, with correspondence
from local resident's concerned about unauthorised traveller
encampments in their areas. There are few issues that get local
people as passionate, and rightly so. Problems have been around for
too long and too little has been done to address them. But we
shouldn't shy away from the difficult issues, least of all those
that matter so much to people.
"There were an estimated 395 unauthorised encampments in the West
Midlands in 2016, more than doubling from 189 in 2011. This has
cost local councils millions of pounds in clean-up costs and
eviction. It has also resulted in untold misery for local people
whose lives have been disrupted.
"It is a minority of the travelling community that cause problems
and have been allowed to give the whole community a bad name.
However, the anger felt by the public towards that minority is very
real and understandable.
"Small practical changes in the law would unlock extra powers for
the police to tackle many of the issues we face."
Debates on travellers are taking place on Monday 9 October and
Thursday 12 October.
Main Chamber - General debate - Gypsies and Travellers and local
Westminster Hall debate - Unauthorised encampments
- Wendy Morton