Rayleigh and Wickford MP Mark Francois, who has been campaigning for years to toughen the laws on illegal traveller encampments, has today welcomed the news that the Government have decided to amend the law to provide police and local authorities with tougher powers to tackle this problem. In particular, Mark has congratulated the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, on their decision to conduct a review into how to implement the so-called “Irish Option” (which would make acts of illegal trespass a criminal offence, as is the case in Ireland).
In a Written Ministerial Statement today, Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, announced several options to increase police power including permitting police to direct trespassers to a suitable authorised site located in neighbouring local authorities. Increase the period of time a trespasser directed from land would be unable to return from the current 3 month period to 12 months. The Home Office will also look to lower the number of vehicles involved in an unauthorised encampment, before police powers can be exercised from 6 to 2 or more. Finally the Home Office will look to amend the policy to enable police to remove trespassers from land that forms part of the highway. A public consultation on these changes will be launched shortly.
Crucially the statement also explains that:
“Our original consultation responses were clear that the majority of respondents believe we should consider criminalising unauthorised encampments, as has been done in the Republic of Ireland. This view has been echoed in the wide ranging debates in this House. I am therefore pleased to announce that we will conduct a review into how we can achieve this.”
Commenting on the announcement, Mark Francois said:
“In June of last year, I coordinated a letter to James Brokenshire from 60 colleagues asking the Government to tighten the law on illegal traveller encampments and, in particular, to adopt the so-called Irish Option. I am therefore delighted to see that the Government have announced a review to see how this can now be brought into effect. I have been lobbied for years by constituents on this controversial issue and I am pleased to see senior Ministers like Sajid Javid and James Brokenshire have listened. Along with my colleagues, I shall follow these developments very closely and seek further meetings with Ministers to make sure this review is carried through to a successful conclusion and the law is changed”