Cherwell District Council: Police & Crime Commissioner "particularly keen" to crack down on illegal traveller camps
Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Matthew Barber expects law changes to “significantly shift the balance of power” away from travellers who set up camps illegally.
In an address to all members of Cherwell District Council this week, Mr Barber highlighted the thorny issue of tackling illegal encampments as one of his five key priorities laid out in his Police & Criminal Justice Plan 2021-2025.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill includes a section on unauthorised encampments with the government seeking to make them a criminal offence, granting powers for police to “seize property including vehicles” if anyone does not leave when asked to by a landowner or police officer.
Offenders could spend three months in prison or get fined up to £2,500 once the law is rubber stamped. Another change would prevent them from returning to the same spot for 12 months, an extension to the current period of three months.
“This is one that I am particularly keen on because it is frankly one of those areas people don’t tend to discuss,” said Mr Barber.
“It affects just about every community in Thames Valley that I talk to, people raise it every year. The impact of illegal encampments is significant across Thames Valley.
“You can measure it in different ways but we certainly see that impact and it affects both the community but also the law-abiding members of the gypsy traveller community who tend to get tarred with the same brush as everyone else.
“It is vital we crack down on criminal elements within every walk of life in order to preserve that harmony that we would all want between communities.
“There are areas where we are looking at what we can do within existing legislation. Frankly, the public’s expectation is different from what the law currently provides for, there is new legislation going through parliament at the moment which will significantly shift the balance of power between police and those seeking to trespass on private land.
“We are also looking at the provision of sites on a transit basis as they are known in law which will give more opportunities to those wishing to live a lawful nomadic lifestyle and the police.”