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Unauthorised encampments

When travelling families and vehicles occupy private or local authority land they commit an act of civil trespass. This is not a criminal offence and the police do not have the authority to remove the trespass based on this action alone.

Camper Van

If there are any associated criminal offences, these are investigated accordingly but may not result in the whole encampment being evicted.

What should you do if any unauthorised encampment occurs near to you?

  • Contact the local authority to report an unauthorised encampment or to get current information on an existing encampment.
  • Any incidents that occur that can be linked to the encampment should be reported to the police. You can do this by calling 101.
  • Avoid getting into confrontational situations with the trespassers.

What do you need to know?

  • The police do not have the power to block trespassers moving onto insecure land.
  • The land owner or an agent should initially communicate with the trespassers to establish their intentions. (The police will support this contact if required).
  • The land owner must verbally request the trespassers leave prior to any other action.
  • Any incidents reported against the trespassers such as hate crime will be investigated.
  • Gypsies and travellers are recognised groups and protected by law against racial discrimination.

The use of police powers is not automatic and in many cases other legal processes taken by the land owner are more proportionate courses of action.

There are powers available to private land owners through the County Court and common law where bailiffs are often used. They will generally following this process:

  • The first step is to ask the trespassers to leave.
  • A court process then takes place which may take several days.
  • A notice is served to the trespassers by bailiffs giving at least 24 hours to leave.

In addition, local authorities can also take legal action to remove the trespassers using Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This takes place through the Magistrates Court. There are procedures to follow and this can take several days to complete.

Where consideration is given by the police to evict trespasser, the main factors will be the impact the encampment is having on the local community or economy.

The police and local authority have to also take into account any health or welfare issues with the trespassers.

Police can use powers under Section 61 CJPO Act 1994 where it is appropriate to do so. In order for the police to consider using these powers, any of the following condition must have been met:

  • Damage caused to the land or property on the land.
  • Threatening, abusive and insulting words or behavior has been used towards the occupier, family members, employees or agent.
  • There are six or more vehicles present on the land.
  • Police will consider a variety of factors before using these powers.

An explanation of these powers can be found at www.gov.uk/government

The police and the local authorities across West Mercia provide guidance and support to private land owners, working closely with the trespassers and the community to ensure the most appropriate course of action is taken in the circumstances.

Download leaflet: pdf icon Unauthorised Encampments - advice sheets [162kb]