Mark supports call to make unauthorised traveller encampments a criminal offence

Rugby’s MP has joined calls from a number of Members of Parliament for the Government to reform legislation allowing the police to take stronger action against unauthorised traveller encampments.

At a debate in Parliament on Monday 10th September, MPs from both sides of the House spoke about the disruption which can be caused to the settled community by unauthorised encampments. These unauthorised incursions currently require local authorities such as Rugby Borough Council to seek a court order to remove these sites – a process which can take a number of days.

Mark Pawsey, Member of Parliament for Rugby, used his contribution to highlight the challenging summer which many Rugby residents have had following 23 unauthorised incursions onto council land. Mark also called on the government to review the powers available to private landowners following incursions at Criss Cross Park in Brownsover. Andrew Selous MP, who had called the debate, acknowledged that those issues were common to many areas throughout the country. Responding for the Government, Minister Kit Malthouse MP confirmed that the Government would be responding to a recent consultation on unauthorised encampments which included consideration of making all deliberate acts of trespass a criminal offence – referred to as the ‘Irish Option.’

Mark said:

“Whilst the vast majority of travellers do live in harmony with the settled community, there has been a persistent pattern of unauthorised encampments – often involving people cutting through locks – to gain access to car parks, recreation grounds and green spaces. A particular challenge which Rugby faced this summer was incursions onto private land. Residents in Brownsover and Coton Park have seen unauthorised encampments appear on recreation areas still owned by the developer – not only proving difficult to move on under current laws, but also preventing children from using the play equipment during the school holidays.”

Mark continued:

“Clearly, as demonstrated by the breadth of MPs from throughout the country who spoke about the challenges their communities have faced, the current law is not satisfactory. As such, I am fully supportive of the proposal for the Government to adopt what has been referred to as the ‘Irish Option.’ This would see all deliberate acts of trespass made a criminal offence, and has widely been considered successful following its introduction by Ireland in 2002.”

Mark concluded:

“I know that Rugby Borough Council does as much as it can to react to unauthorised encampments when they arise. They have also successfully sought an injunction meaning those setting up camps on council land can be immediately arrested for contempt of court. However, giving both local authorities and the police the additional powers set out in the ‘Irish Option’ to directly remove caravans where unauthorised encampments occur will alleviate the need for these injunctions and ensure that all residents can enjoy the recreation grounds and playgrounds that Rugby is rightly proud of.”