If you are a landowner with an unauthorised camp of travellers on your land, you may think you will need to go to court to have them removed. In fact, you may be able to get them to move on using only the provisions of common law. This can often be quicker and cheaper, although it is a good idea to consult with a professional bailiff agency with experience of dealing with traveller evictions, such as Able Investigations. We will be able to advise you on the best way to proceed and can take the stress and worry out of the process by dealing with the travellers on your behalf.
Know your rights
Common law can only be used by, or on behalf of, the landowner to remove unauthorised encampments of travellers. It allows the landowner to regain possession of the land, does not require them to go through the courts and can be enforced either directly by the landowner or by private bailiffs acting for the landowner.
The relevant area of common law is the ‘tort of trespass against property’ and allows landowners to evict people from their land, seek damages for the trespass and seek an injunction to prevent further trespass. However, it does not provide automatic sanctions if the trespassers do return.
Follow the proper procedure
Over the years, cases brought before the courts have established a precedent that trespasser who have entered and occupied land peaceably are entitled to a request to leave before forcible removal occurs. However, a trespasser who has entered land by force or with violence can be forcibly removed immediately without the need for a request to depart.
Notify the police
If you are planning on using your common law rights to remove trespassers, you should notify the police of your intentions. They can then send officers to be present during the eviction to prevent any breach of the peace. The police can advise you on whether they feel the particular circumstances at the time mean that it is safe to attempt an eviction or not.
Local authorities have strong statutory powers to deal with unauthorised encampments which can provide a recourse if travellers refuse to leave. This is covered by Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. You can also work with civil courts using Civil Procedures Rules Part 55.
Avoid using excessive force
When evicting travellers it is important to stay within the bounds of ‘reasonable force’. What counts as reasonable force depends on the circumstances of the individual case, but essentially comes down to the fact that the landowner or their agent must honestly believe that they used only the amount of force which was reasonable to achieve the eviction and nothing more.
This can be very hard to judge in the moment, especially for people not used to dealing with these situations. This is another reason to retain a private bailiff to carry out the eviction on your behalf as they will have the experience and cool-headedness needed to judge what is ‘reasonable’ in the given circumstances.
Able Investigations is an enforcement agency with decades of experience in traveller evictions. If you are a landowner with an unauthorised traveller encampment on your property, we can help. To find out more, please get in touch with a member of our professional and qualified team by calling 0845 370 7401 today.