If you are a Gypsy or Traveller and the council or a private landlord is trying to evict you from land you are occupying, they may call in the police to remove you.
Police powers to move Gypsies and Travellers
By law, the police have the power to direct you to leave and remove your vehicles if there are two or more people trespassing on the land and the landowner has taken reasonable steps to ask you to leave.
When the landowner is the council or any other public authority, it must consider your human rights and other welfare considerations such as your children's education, before it decides to ask you to leave.
A senior police officer must be present and reasonably believe that:
- there are six or more vehicles parked on the land, or
- you or another trespasser has caused damage or behaved in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner
A senior police officer is someone above the rank of constable.
The police can also move you on if there are two or more people trespassing on the land with one or more vehicle and there is a suitable alternative site available.
The police can't move you on if you have permission to be on the land.
Action the police can take to move Gypsies and Travellers
In order to move you on, the police must come onto the land. The senior police officer must ask you to leave. They may also give you a letter or written direction asking you to leave.
You can ask the police to give you time to speak to the landowner, to ask if you can stay for longer. They don't have to grant you this time.
There is no minimum period of notice. You are asked to leave as soon as you're able to. You won't be able to return to the same site for three months.
Action the police can take if Gypsies and Travellers don't move on
The police will ask you to move as soon as you're practically able to. For example, you should be given time to pack up the site and fix any broken down vehicles.
You are committing a criminal offence if you don't leave within the time you're given or you leave and later trespass on the same land within three months. You may be arrested. The police also have the right to tow away and impound your vehicles.
If you are then prosecuted for failing to comply with the police direction or returning to trespass on the land, you can raise a defence if you can show that:
- you were not trespassing on the land
- or you had a reasonable excuse for failing to leave the land as soon as you were reasonably able to
You may be fined or even put in prison if you are convicted.
If the police remove your vehicles, they must serve you with a removal notice telling you to collect your vehicle within 21 days.
The notice should also explain where your vehicle is being stored and what removal and storage charges you need to pay before you can get it back.
If you don't reclaim your vehicle within 21 days, the police can sell or destroy it. If they sell it, they must return the sale money to you after deducting any charges.
Criminal offences during eviction of Gypsies and Travellers
The police can charge you with a criminal offence, for example breach of the peace, if your site is causing problems in the area or if there is trouble when the police arrive to move you on.
You can also be arrested if the police think this is necessary.
Making a complaint
You can complain to the Independent Police Complaints Commission if you believe the police have mistreated you in any way.
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