We had a good number of questions at our recent webinar on the removal of travellers. Here are the answers.
When is the best point in time to get an HCEO (High Court Enforcement Officer) involved?
We would suggest you act quickly to avoid damage to the land. You can instruct certificated enforcement agents (EA) to remove travellers under Common Law as soon as you find them on your land. The EAs will serve notice to leave as soon as possible, and will return after 24 hours to check the travellers have gone. If they have not left, they will then remove them.
Are you allowed to physically remove people if they won't leave?
Yes, we are, but we must do so safely to protect the person being removed and to make sure they are carried in such a way that their breathing is not inhibited. If the person is playing limp and not moving, it will require four people, one per limb. If the person is struggling, there needs to be a fifth person to hold their head.
Do local authorities generally use their own officers and when would you assist?
Frequently they do, but we are asked to assist on occasion. This may be for logistical reasons because we have towing or safety equipment that they need, or it may be to make up the numbers and add some “backbone” to the enforcement. We may also be asked to advise on security planning.
Following on from the previous answer, we find that where open land is not secured after removal, the travellers will probably be back. Those sites who have manned security for the week or two that it takes to put preventative measures in place, such as concreate bollards, are far less likely to be re-occupied.
What powers can the police attend under? They commonly question the rules that apply.
Yes, some constables do question sometimes, but an inspector will probably be well versed. Under Common Law it is fairly rare that we need to explain the rules around reasonable force or have to ask for police attendance.
Are councils advised to seek a court order?
The removal under Common Law is fine on private land, but for council-owned land it is better to get a writ. Then there will be no question about police support or the power of the writ. We also find that councils’ in-house legal teams can usually get the court order as quickly as possible.
Would it appropriate to seek a welfare check if you are a private landowner?
No; there is no obligation to do so.
When would a court order be required?
A court order would be needed when you have tried to remove under Common Law and failed, most commonly because the travellers or squatters refused to leave without a fight and the risk of assault was high. The police, under these circumstances, will ask the EAs to back off and get a court order.
What reasons for expediting the writ works?
Damage is the main reason that works. This might be copper being stripped out, or bags of waste being left on the land or chucked over onto neighbouring land, which could cause damage and/or present a public health risk.
What is the procedure for the torts notice?
If any detritus is left behind after the removal, it may be very tempting to just dump it all. Don’t. You are opening yourself up to claims that the items left were of great value. Your HCEO will have a torts notice, which needs filling in to give the contact details to get the property back and the details of how long it will be kept. The torts notice may be posted on the goods or, if there are people still there, given to them.
From my policing experience, I always find that a community impact risk assessment is a worthwhile document.
Reconnaissance and risk assessment by the HCEO are very important. Landowners should have one done because:
- It is not very expensive
- It gives you a planning document, so you can secure police attendance if necessary and all be singing from the same hymn sheet. It also shows that you are serious
Is an interim possession order quicker?
An interim possession order (IPO) cannot be used on open land, so will not apply to many instances where there are travellers. There are also several conditions attached to when an IPO can be used – you can read more in this article – and you are reliant on the police to enforce the order if they don’t leave.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance