The Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey David Munro has welcomed government proposals announced yesterday to give police forces further powers in dealing with unauthorised encampments.
The Home Office have outlined a number of draft measures, including criminalising unauthorised encampments, following a public consultation of the effectiveness of enforcement.
They are planning to launch a further consultation on proposals to amend the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to give police further powers in a number of areas – click here for the full announcement:
Last year, Surrey had an unprecedented number of unauthorised encampments in the county and the PCC has already spoken to Surrey Police about plans they have drawn up to tackle any issues in 2019.
The PCC is the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) national lead for Equalities, Diversity and Human Rights which includes Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT).
Together with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) he gave a joint response to the initial government consultation giving views on issues such as police powers, community relations, working with local authorities – and in particular calling for the shortage of transit sites and lack of accommodation provision to be addressed. There are currently none in Surrey.
PCC David Munro said: “I am pleased to see the government focusing on the subject of unauthorised encampments and responding to community concerns around this complex issue.
“It is absolutely right the police feel confident to enforce the law. I therefore welcome many of the government’s proposals, including extending the limit by which trespassers directed from land would be unable to return, reducing the number of vehicles needed in a camp for the police to act and amending existing powers to enable trespassers to be moved on from the highway.
“I also welcome the further consultation into making trespass a criminal offence. This potentially has widespread implications, not just for unauthorised encampments, and I believe this needs more careful consideration.
“I believe many of issues surrounding unauthorised encampments are created by the lack of accommodation provision and shortage of such sites which I have long been calling for in Surrey and elsewhere.
“So whilst I welcome in principle the extra flexibility for police to direct trespassers to suitable authorised sites located in neighbouring local authority areas, I am concerned this may detract from the need to open up transit sites.
“It should be recognised that the unauthorised encampment issue is not just a policing one, we must work closely together with our partner agencies in the county.
“I do believe tackling the issues at source requires much better coordination and action by all in government and local authorities. This includes better nationally coordinated intelligence on traveller movements and greater education amongst both traveller and settled communities.”