Julia Lopez MP: Travellers at the Morris Dancer pub

"Following receipt of constituents’ emails about the arrival of a group of travellers at the former Morris Dancer pub, I contacted both the Chief Executive of Havering Council and the Borough Police Commander, Jason Gwillim, to ask what could be done to assuage residents’ concerns and to move the group on. I also asked Jason why his officers did not attend the site immediately when the bailiff asked for assistance and whether they are investigating and pursuing anyone for criminal damage.

In addition I met the Chief Executive of the council to see if there was anything that Havering council could do. Unfortunately they can only really act if the travellers are on public land and to this end, the council are seeking a borough-wide injunction to tackle this continuing issue. We are hopeful that this will ensure that places like Harold Hill are targeted much less frequently in future as the clearing of such sites has been costing the borough many thousands of pounds due to illegal dumping of waste.

I saw the Chief Executive again on Saturday who advised that the police had now been able to issue a s61 notice directing the travellers to leave the site by the Morris Dancer by noon on Saturday. The police would then be advising the landowner on how best to secure the site. 

Turning to my role as an MP, I am here to help make laws while the police and other authorities work to enforce them. In this regard, the government is currently consulting on tightening up the laws around illegal traveller sites to try to give communities more power to tackle issues that arise in places like Harold Hill, and I paste below the link to that consultation should you wish to contribute your own views. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-review-powers-to-deal-with-unauthorised-caravan-sites

One of the things we are looking at is introducing a new offence that would extend the scope of aggravated trespass. Currently the offence only applies if a traveller has camped illegally and is shown to have intimidated or obstructed the landowner. Now, we are looking at an offence that would allow against unauthorised camps that substantially damage land or cause serious inconvenience to the landowner, lowering the threshold for criminal action.

As I understand it, however, the National Police Chiefs Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners have told the government that instead of a change to the law, they want to see permanent and transit sites set up for travellers in each local authority area. If you have a view on this, please do feed into the consultation."


Available here