As the weather improves, we are receiving increasing numbers of requests for the removal of travellers.
The travellers we are being asked to move have parked up on a wide number of types of land – from parks, to car parks, fields and on industrial sites – some privately owned, some local authority owned.
There are two ways in which travellers can be removed from land – under Common Law or via a High Court writ of possession. However, wherever possible, prevention is better than cure.
Prevention where possible
Where you can, put fences and gates or barriers in place to prevent access. You may want to consider round the clock security, such as guards and also alarms, remote monitoring and CCTV. It is, of course, easier to secure an industrial site or a car park, than open land, but you can create natural barriers such as trees, banks of earth, logs, rocks etc.
If you do need to remove travellers, do not attempt to do so yourself – you could lay yourself open to charges of assault, as well as putting yourself in a potentially hazardous situation.
If you use Common Law, you should instruct a Certificated Enforcement Agent (they used to be known as Certificated Bailiffs prior to the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2014). They will attend the site, give the travellers 24 hours’ notice to leave and then return the following day to check they have left.
In many cases they will have done so, but if they have not, the Certificated Enforcement Agents will remove their vehicles from the land – police support will often be requested in such situations to prevent a breach of the peace.
A High Court writ
If the landowner chooses to take court action, this will normally start in the County Court with an application for a possession order. There are certain circumstances where the action may start in the High Court, but these tend to be more in cases where there are large scale protesters, such as Parliament Square or Occupy in St Pauls.
Once awarded, the possession order can be transferred up to the High Court for enforcement by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) under a writ of possession. As the writ will be against “persons unknown”, no permission is required to transfer up the order.
Once the writ is received, enforcement is started. There is no requirement to serve notice, but a decision on whether to do so is made on a case by case basis by the HCEO and client (or their representative). On the day the writ is enforced, the HCEO and their team will attend, potentially with police support, to remove the travellers.
Whilst obtaining a writ will take longer, and may cost more, than acting under Common Law, it does provide the landowner with more protection, and if travellers come back, they can remove them again under a writ of restitution (a writ in support of another writ) to remove them without the need to go back to court.
If you would like further guidance on site security or about which removal option is more appropriate (we can act under Common Law and a High Court writ), please get in touch.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance