A law that poses a direct threat to the Traditional way of life of Gypsies and Travellers.

A law that poses a direct threat to the Traditional way of life of Gypsies and Travellers.

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Tuesday 16th March 2021, Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passes Commons vote.  Included in this bill is the proposal to “Strengthen Police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments” (Home Office, 2021).
 
The Court of Appeal, in The Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Bromley v Persons Unknown [2020] delivered a unanimous judgment reaffirming the rights of the Romany (‘Gypsy’) and Travellers people to live in accordance with their traditional, nomadic way of life.
 
The proposal to criminalise trespass will have a devastating impact on the already marginalised nomadic Gypsy and Travellers in the UK. This legislation grants powers to confiscate homes, impose prison sentences of three months and/or fine up to £2500.  Residents of encampments will be directed not to return to the location within 12 months.  This legislation will needlessly push Gypsies and Travellers into the Criminal Justice System, leaving many with life long criminal records. Furthermore, The Home Office have stated that this legislation is not designed to “Capture” wild campers, ramblers or the homeless, GATE Herts fails to see how authorities will distinguish between a wild camper or homeless person and a Gypsy or Traveller, if not by ethnicity.  The Equality Act 2010 says that you may not be discriminated against because of your race or ethnicity, therefore GATE asks how can this legislation be implemented fairly?
 
The Government made a commitment in the 2019 consultation to “… continue its work to provide more authorised sites for Travellers to reside upon” GATE H can find no evidence that the Government has taken any steps to live up to this commitment.  GATE H would like to remind the Government that residents of unauthorised encampments are statutorily homeless yet are omitted from homeless strategies.
 
There is a well-documented lack of Local Authority permanent sites and many Authorities have no transit site provision within their jurisdiction.  Planning for private sites is problematic and difficult to obtain. The planning definition of “Gypsy” and “Traveller” requires that applicants prove that they “Travel” in order to get assessed for a permanent pitch or obtain permission for private sites, this law will prevent “Travelling” by criminalising the act of stopping, this will place Gypsies and Travellers in a no win situation. This bill is nothing short of legislating us out of existence, under the above stated Planning definition of “Gypsy” and “Traveller” we will surely cease to exist, at least in the eyes of planners.
 
Although the majority of Gypsy and Travellers reside in bricks and mortar often not out of choice but rather due to lack of site provision, a significant number maintain the nomadic lifestyle, a right enshrined in law.  There are alternatives to this bill such as  The Negotiated Stopping Policy, a Policy drafted by Leeds GATE.  This policy is utilised by a growing number of local authorities, it is a social contract between Gypsy and Traveller people and local authorities. Centuries of tradition being eroded is just another example of how Gypsy and Travellers ways of life are held in contempt. It’s an inhuman act that will criminalise thousands over-night. UK laws have cut away at GRT rights and this one seems to wipe them out completely.
Published by Claire Rice for GATE Herts

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A law that poses a direct threat to the Traditional way of life of Gypsies and Travellers.
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