Ellie Ames 30 November 2023

Councils can ban ‘newcomer’ travellers from land, court rules

Councils can ban ‘newcomer’ travellers from land, court rules image
Image: richardjohnson / Shutterstock.com

Local authorities can ban unidentified travellers from occupying land through injunctions against ‘newcomers’, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The ruling follows several cases of councils seeking injunctions to prevent unauthorised encampments by gypsies and travellers.

These injunctions often bound people who were not known or identifiable to the councils, but who might in future camp at a particular place. They were therefore described as ‘persons unknown’.

After reviewing such injunctions in May 2021, Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that courts could not issue final injunctions to prevent unknown travellers from occupying land.

However, the Court of Appeal ruled in 2022 that courts could grant ‘newcomer’ injunctions, a decision that was upheld by five Supreme Court judges yesterday.

The judges stressed that safeguards would be necessary, including for the council to demonstrate a ‘compelling need’, which it could not otherwise meet, to protect civil rights or enforce the law.

Judges added that measures should be taken to protect the rights of ‘newcomers’, including advertising the order to alert potentially affected travellers and limiting its duration and geographical scope to ensure it is proportional.

The head of policy and public affairs at the national charity Friends, Families and Travellers, Abbie Kirkby, said: 'We have been determined to challenge the discriminatory and disproportionate use of these injunctions, used to target gypsy and traveller families who have nowhere else to stop.

'We see this as a shot across the bows to local authorities – that their hostile approaches to Traveller communities will not go unchecked.'

If this article was of interest, check out our feature 'Tackling anti-GRT racism at the local level'

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