I am delighted that the Government recognises the challenges and the significant distress and misery that can be caused by unauthorised encampments and I very much welcome the new legislation which will ensure that the police are fully quipped with the powers they need.
Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has welcomed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which has been introduced in the House of Commons today.
The Bill seeks to equip the police with the powers and tools they need to protect themselves and the public, while overhauling sentencing laws to keep serious sexual and violent offenders behind bars for longer, and placing greater emphasis on rehabilitation to better help offenders to turn their lives around and prevent further crimes.
The Bill will also bring forward legislation to ensure that the police are fully equipped with the powers they need to tackle unauthorised encampments.
Alok’s constituency of Reading West has faced numerous unauthorised encampments over recent years and residents from across the constituency have suffered varying levels of distress, anti-social behaviour and intimidation. During his time as Housing and Planning Minister, Alok initiated the original consultation on changes in the law and he encouraged interested constituents to respond to the public consultation at the time. He subsequently launched a local petition in his constituency in 2018 which has been signed by over 2,000 people calling for trespass to be made a criminal offence.
Alok has since made numerous representations to the former and current Home Secretaries to make the case for a change in the law to make trespass a criminal offence.
Illegal sites can cause distress and misery to those who live nearby. The Bill will introduce a new criminal offence where a person resides or intends to reside on any public or private land without permission and has caused, or is likely to cause, significant harm, obstruction, or harassment or distress. The Home Office have taken steps to ensure that those exercising their rights to enjoy the countryside are not inadvertently impacted by these measures.
In addition, the Bill amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the list of harms that can be considered by the police when directing people away from land; and increase the period in which persons directed away from land must not return from three months to 12 months. Amendments to the 1994 Act will in addition allow police to direct trespassers away from land that forms part of a highway.
Alok Sharma said: “My constituency has suffered from repeated unauthorised encampments over recent years and I have long campaigned for making trespass a criminal offence and strengthening police powers to deal with them, and during my time as Housing and Planning Minister, I initiated the original consultation on changing the law. Therefore, I am delighted that the Government recognises the challenges and the significant distress and misery that can be caused by unauthorised encampments and I very much welcome the new legislation which will ensure that the police are fully quipped with the powers they need to tackle unauthorised encampments.”
Home Secretary, Priti Patel said: “In December 2019, the Government was elected with a Manifesto commitment to tackle unauthorised traveller encampments. I am confident that this comprehensive set of measures will allow police to tackle a range of harms resulting from unauthorised encampments quickly and effectively.”