Councillors urge MPs to making trespass a criminal matter to help tackle unauthorised traveller encampments

A traveller encampment.
A traveller encampment.

Warwick District Council is urging MPs Matt Western and Jeremy Wright to support a plan to make trespass a criminal matter, something they hope will help tackle unlawful gypsy and traveller camps on the patch.

Cllr Tony Heath (Ind Whitnash) proposed a notice of motion at last night’s [WED] full council meeting following a string of incidents including one that saw an empty building in Queensway, Leamington, destroyed earlier this month.

The proposal, which was seconded by Conservative councillor Martyn Ashford (Aylesford) and supported by the majority of those at the meeting, said: “In light of the recent and continuous persistent gypsy/traveller incursions on both public and private land within Warwick district, the council asks its two MPs to put our case to Sajid Javid, Home Secretary, to support the changes he is considering so that trespass is a criminal matter and not a civil matter, therefore providing the police greater powers to move people on.”

Cllr Heath explained that most of the wards covered by the council had been affected even though £170,000 had been spent last year on measures to keep sites secure.

He added: “In spite of this we are still plagued by this blight. They still find places to invade and not only do they create anti-social behaviour and leave mounds of rubbish for us to clear up but they do not seem to have a proper toilet habits.

“Having seen the wanton destruction – and it can only be called that – caused by travellers at the vacant industrial building in Queensway two weeks ago, AC Lloyd told me £250,000 of damage was done to that building.

"The time is right to say enough is enough. We will not put up with this behaviour any longer. We have a responsibility to our residents and businesses to stamp this out once and for all.”

Not everyone was in favour with Cllr Alan Boad (Lib Dem Crown) saying that police already had the powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act to tackle aggravated trespass but chose not to use them.

He added: “Trespass has not been criminal for 400 years so why would we want to go down that route now.

“I find it somewhat offensive that we can’t offer them any alternative than putting big boots on and kicking them off. If we had gypsy and traveller sites in the district then we have far better grounds for moving them on. That’s where we need to go. The law is already there and it doesn’t need changes.”