Sir David Amess MP has welcomed Government plans to introduce tougher laws to crackdown on illegal traveller sites. In a joint statement with the Housing Department, the Home Secretary today has set out plans to review current legislation, and give police and local authorities more powers to tackle illegal encampments.
Under the plans, the Government will consider making illegal encampments a criminal issue rather than, as it currently is, a civil one. Known as the ‘Irish Option’ due to its success in tackling illegal sites in the Republic of Ireland, trespassing could be made a criminal offence. The Home Secretary today said that ‘there was a widespread perception that the law does not apply to travellers’, and the review will examine what more can be done to toughen current legislation.
The announcement would also see police and local authorities given greater powers to deal with unauthorised encampments. Increased powers will make it easier for the police in act and remove trespassers sooner. The changes will also see the time travellers are allowed to return to a cleared site increased from 3 months to a year. To help local authorities tackle illegal sites in their area, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have announced extra resources for local Councils and funding of up to £1.5 million.
The move has been hailed as a victory for South Essex MPs who have long campaigned for tougher Government action on traveller sites. Sir David Amess congratulated Rayleigh and Wickford MP, Mark Francois for his commitment to this issue and successfully lobbying the Government for change. Responding to the announcement, Sir David said ‘I am thrilled that the Government have finally taken action on this issue. MPs from across Essex have for too long been urging the Government to toughen laws on illegal encampments, and our constituents will be relieved to see something finally being done to tackle this problem head on. I am pleased that the Home Secretary will look into how to the ‘Irish Option’ can be implemented, and very much look forward to seeing the law changed.’