Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has written to the new Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, to make the case for tougher powers to deal with illegal encampments.
Over the past few years, Alok’s constituency of Reading West has faced an escalating number of illegal encampments. Residents from across the constituency have all suffered varying levels of distress, anti-social behaviour and intimidation.
The power to disperse illegal encampments sits with Thames Valley Police and the local authorities, Reading Borough Council and West Berkshire Council, and Alok and his office have been liaising with and speaking with both councils and the police as a matter of urgency on each of the illegal incursions which has taken place.
Thames Valley Police has agreed an updated protocol with local authorities to deal with unauthorised encampments which is good news. But Alok feels that our local police officers need a clear direction from the top of their chain of command that they need to follow through much more quickly on using the powers available to them. Alok made this clear during a discussion with the Chief Constable last year. The powers already available to the authorities must be exercised fully and quickly, and Alok shares the view that those powers should be strengthened.
During his time as Housing and Planning Minister, Alok initiated the original consultation on changes in the law. He therefore welcomed the news earlier this year that the Government has now made progress on this issue, setting out new measures to tackle illegal encampments. And the previous Home Secretary made clear that the Government is now actively considering making trespass a criminal offence.
It has already been announced that the Home Office will consult on proposals to amend the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to:
Alok has therefore written to the new Home Secretary to seek an update and has asked for an indication as to when the consultation will be launched.
Alok Sharma MP said: “I welcomed the progress in February and I will continue to pursue this matter so trespass does formally become a criminal offence. This is the case in the Republic of Ireland and we need this change here. It will deter illegal encampments as the individuals concerned will understand they will face criminal law sanctions, rather than civil ones, right from the start.”
Alok concluded: “I completely share the frustration of my constituents over this issue, which will require legislative change, and I will be speaking next week to the Home Secretary about the proposed consultation and timing of potential changes to the law.”