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Public order provisions

This content applies to England

This section explains the provisions on public order in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 also introduced a number of laws aimed at new Travellers, demonstrators, people attending unlicensed raves and hunt saboteurs. However, because these are criminal offences related to trespass they may have an effect on the lives of all Travellers.

Removal of trespassers

The police have wide-ranging powers that apply to two or more trespassers (regardless of whether their initial presence on the land was legal) where reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave. In such a case the most senior police officer present can direct them to leave if:

  • any of the trespassers has caused damage to the land or property, or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards either the occupier, a member of her/his family or her/his employee or agent
  • those persons have between them six or more vehicles on the land,[1] or
  • two or more persons with at least one vehicle are trespassing on land and there is a suitable alternative pitch on a site within the area. The police must first have consulted the local authority within whose area the land is situated to find out about suitable sites.[2]

If a person fails to comply with such a direction or returns within three months, s/he will have committed a criminal offence. It is a defence to any action on these grounds for the person accused to show that s/he was not trespassing or that s/he had a reasonable excuse for failing to leave or re-entering the land.

Seizure of vehicles

Police have the power to seize and remove any vehicle on the land if the powers to remove trespassers (described above) have been used.[3] The police may charge Travellers to get their vehicles back and can levy a daily storage charge.

Trespassory assemblies

Where a chief constable reasonably believes a seriously disruptive/damaging and trespassory assembly is intended, s/he may apply to the local district authority for an order prohibiting the holding of any trespassory assembly on or within five miles of the site for not more than four days.[4] It is a criminal offence to contravene such an order and section 71 enables the police to stop people believed to be going to such assemblies.

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] s.61 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

[3] ss.62A-E (as inserted by the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003).

[3] s.62 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

[4] s.70 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

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