Security or police are often present at planned protests or activist action. This is to ensure their safety and that of the general public, as well as to protect public and private property. However, under certain circumstances, security can also make moves to stop a protest or remove protestors from the area. High Court Enforcement Officers are often used for this duty, under the instruction of the owner of the land the protest is being held on.
Obtaining the Authority to Remove Protestors
There are two common routes to obtaining the legal authority to remove protestors from the site of the demonstration.
The first is the Common Law right of a landlord to remove trespassers from their land, this is often the most appropriate when activists are on open land rather than occupying buildings. Certified Enforcement Officers can be used in this case, and protestors can often be removed within 48 hours.
The second is a High Court Writ of Possession which instructs officers to remove trespassers (or “persons unknown”) from the site. This is more suitable in cases where buildings are occupied and is usually a longer process.
To obtain a Writ of Possession, you should make a possession claim online or through the County Court. According to UK law, this is allowable where “There is a substantial risk of public disturbance or of serious harm to persons or property which properly require immediate determination.” (Practice Direction 55A).
This Possession Order can then be transferred up to the High Court for Enforcement using a N293A form. Unlike with tenant evictions, you do not need special County Court approval to do this. You can also transfer a Possession Order during possession proceedings to speed up the process. There is also a fee for sealing the writ, after which enforcement can commence.
Creating a Secure Protestor Removal Team
Once you’ve decided on an appropriate course of action, it’s time to look at your enforcement options. You can find out more about what to look for when choosing an enforcement service here. However, as a general overview, you should look for a firm that has a speciality in dealing with protesters, this type of work take specialist training & planning with a high-quality reputation and experience in matters similar to yours.
You can also look on their website for clues as to whether they’re likely to deal with your situation in an appropriate & safe manner. Look out for whether the site discusses matters such as risk assessments, post-eviction assistance, and whether their officers are prepared for specialist matters, such as protestors who have locked themselves to buildings, or items. Since UK law allows officers to use “reasonable force” to remove protestors when acting under the landlord’s consent, you may also wish to enquire how they define this.
What Power do Security have During Protests?
As mentioned above, certificated enforcement officers can use “reasonable force” to remove protestors using reasonable force when they are instructed by the landlord, Reasonable force is subject to the force being received to cease the removal. Therefore, this situation must be carefully managed, as Protesters will push the boundaries to the extreme.
Certificated Enforcement Officers also have the ability to detain protestors in the form of a citizen’s arrest if they have reason to believe a crime would have been committed otherwise (please note that trespassing does not count as a crime in itself).
High Court Enforcement Officers additionally have the power to execute Writs of Possession and Restitution.
If appropriate, your enforcement team may also make contact with the police, who have the power to arrest protestors if this is needed to avoid a “Breach of the peace” during the removal, such as violence towards a person or private property.
Risk Assessment and Planning
Before taking action, your Enforcement Team should carry out a risk assessment to consider if specialist persons or equipment are needed in the removal and how it should generally be approached. This may depend on the nature of the protest, the type of land or property it’s occurring on, and which tactics the protestors are using.
They may need your help to define the boundaries of your land and the layout/features of any buildings, if needed.
Some security firms will also offer assistance after the removal or may be able to put you in contact with someone else who can help. You may find that the protestors leave behind significant damage to land or buildings which may leave them unsafe, in addition to leaving behind large amounts of rubbish.
Many enforcement services may also be able to assist with measures which can help you to avoid the situation a second time. Securing the site from re-occupation may include adding CCTV cameras, perimeter walls or fences, or security guards on patrol.
Why Should Landowners Remove Protestors from their Land?
Some landowners take the attitude that any protestors occupying their land will move off in their own time, so there is little point in beginning the official process to remove them. However, this is ignoring the damage to your property and reputation trespassers can do.
This may include attracting negative press coverage, stripping, and selling copper wiring, building encampments, and pulling down walls. They can also continue to damage your property after they go by leaving behind rubbish or human waste which can pollute agricultural land and attract pests.
Leaving the problem for a longer time may also result in additional groups arriving in support, increasing the scale of the issue. Even if the majority of the protestors do leave in time, it’s not uncommon for stragglers to continue to squat in buildings on the site. It may even cost you further fines if the local authority issue you with an Enforcement Notice
For all of these reasons, it’s important to deal with protestors on your land quickly.
Contact Able Investigations for HCEOs or Certificated Enforcement Officers
Able work across England and Wales to provide professional Enforcement services. Clients we have previously helped with Trespassers/Protesters include the Europa Energy, Bristol City Council, Tulip, Mendip District Council, Angus Energy. As well as private clients with protesters on their land. We work with Specialist Group International to professionally remove even the most difficult protestor or activist groups.
We can assist with both common law evictions (often within 24 hours) and Writ of Possession Enforcements. All our staff are specially trained in dealing with protesters, including but not limited to Debonding, Conflict Management.