“Intentional Trespass” consultation: Stand with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and defend your fundamental right to protest.
The Government is considering creating a new offence that will criminalise trespassing and ‘unauthorised encampments’. This means that Gypsies and Travellers could face imprisonment for their way of life, communities could be banned from returning to a specific area for a year, and could have their homes taken away. These plans are broad, and are likely to also criminalise forms of peaceful protest such as protection camps and land occupations that have often formed part of environmental protest such as opposing road building.
New police powers against trespass in the 1990s with the creation of the offence of aggravated trespass were used as a means of shutting down road protests, and have had long-reaching impacts on acts of peaceful, environmental protest since then including the anti-fossil fuels movement.
Ways of shutting down peaceful protests, such as the use of injunctions against ‘persons unknown’, have also been used against the Gypsy and Traveller community.
At Friends of the Earth we’re standing in solidarity with the Gypsy and Traveller community, and any attempts to criminalise their way of life and to undermine the right to peaceful protest in our democracy.
Liberty have created an online tool to respond to the consultation, which closes on 4th March at 11.59pm.
Please do use it to have your voice heard on this issue – they have pre-written an email, but you can edit it and add your own messages and concerns if you want to. The major concerns around the implication for protests that you may want to include are:
- If passed, this offence could be used on environmental protests such as anti-fracking, HS2 and Heathrow camps
- It will be vague and wide-ranging, and effectively make it easy for the police to move people on, confiscate their belongings and arrest them
- There is no indication of how they will judge ‘intent to remain’ and will be left to the judgement of officers on the ground
- The police will be compelled to act, and could even be Judicially Reviewed by private companies if they don’t move on or arrest people.
To criminalise trespass would be to make strangers of us all. The police become internal border guards, defending the fabric of the nation from us, the alien horde. In most parts of the country, this will leave us fenced into tiny areas. The right to roam in England extends to just 10% of the nation, generally far from where most people live. Some counties have only pocket handkerchiefs of land where we may freely venture.George Monbiot