Illegal gypsy and traveller encampments

Illegal encampments on private land

When encampments go onto private land it is the landowner's responsibility to take action to evict.

We’d advise private landowners to initially talk to the people involved to see if a leaving date can be agreed. If this doesn’t work, the landowner can take proceedings in the County Court. There must be a minimum of two clear days between service of documents and the court hearing.

To contact the County Court, telephone 01332 622600 or seek the help of a solicitor.

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Illegal encampments on the side of roads or footpaths

If gypsies/travellers illegally encamp on highways or footpaths they will be moved on by Derbyshire County Council (DCC) as soon as is reasonable. In all cases the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the gypsies/travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause public health problems.

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Illegal encampments on Council land, parks or open spaces

Often these are under our control and so it is our responsibility to deal with the encampment. Unlike private landowners, we have a legal duty to follow detailed legal processes. If we do not show that these processes have been followed, then our applications to the court for eviction will be refused.

There are several steps:

  1. First, we need to visit the site, usually accompanied by the police, to establish the number of vehicles occupying it and issue a Toleration Policy to each of the vehicles.
  2. Next, we have to ask the health and education services to visit the sites and carry out welfare checks. The time taken for the assessments are outside our control but normally this should take no more than seven days.
  3. If there are no educational or health needs identified, then we have to serve a Direction Order. This is a legal notice which normally requires the land to be vacated within 24 hours.
  4. If the Direction Order is not complied with then we must apply to the court for an Order for the Removal of Persons or Vehicles. We will always ask for the soonest available court date. This is usually three days to a week after we have confirmed that the Direction Order has been breached.
  5. Once the court date has been confirmed we must issue a summons to the travellers (again accompanied by the police) advising them of the date and time when the application for the order will be heard by the court. The summons must not give less than 24 hours’ notice.
  6. At the court hearing the application for the order will be either approved, refused or adjourned. If the order is approved it must be served, accompanied by the police, as soon as possible.
  7. 24 hours after the service of the order we may arrange for bailiffs to remove the vehicles from the site.
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Can the court refuse to grant the Council an order to move the gypsies/travellers on?

The court can refuse to grant us an order to move the gypsies/travellers if there is an unavoidable reason for them to stay on the site, or if the court thinks that we have failed to make adequate enquiries regarding their general health and welfare.

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What action can the police take?

The police will visit all sites reported to them. In certain circumstances (for example where the travellers have with them six or more vehicles), officers may use powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers will not be used as a matter of routine.

The section gives the police powers to act but officers can choose whether to use them or not. Each case will be considered on its merits, looking at the safety of the community and taking into consideration any aggravating factors of crime or disorder.

The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land itself is not a criminal offence. Prevention of trespass is the responsibility of the landowner, not the police. The police will investigate all criminal and public order offences.

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