Unauthorised encampments

Northumbria Police and Local Authorities recognise the rights of Travellers and Gypsies, who are protected from discrimination by law. We equally recognise the rights of people whose land unauthorised encampments take place. If you are concerned about any unauthorised encampments please report it to your local council. Links to council websites and contact numbers can be found at the bottom of this page.

When the council can move people on

If Gypsies and Travellers are camped on council land without consent, the council can recover possession of their land by using a County Court Order. If the Gypsies and Travellers are on council land and are causing problems they will be moved on as soon as is possible and reasonable. The council will consider each case individually. In all cases, the site is visited and every effort made to make sure that the Gypsies and Travellers keep the site tidy and do not cause public health problems. If they are on private land, it is usually the landowner's responsibility.

Can the council remove Gypsies and Travellers from their land immediately?

No, the Council must:

  • Show that the Gypsies and Travellers are on the land without consent
  • Make enquiries regarding the general health, welfare and children's education
  • Ensure that the Human Rights Acts 1998 has been fully complied with
  • Establish ownership of land.

When the police can move people on

The police may activate their powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to require Gypsies and Travellers to leave. The police are able to activate these powers where they are satisfied that two or more people are trespassing on the land, and the landowner has taken reasonable steps to make them leave and they have failed to do so. In addition, one of the following conditions also has to apply:

  • Damage has been caused to the land or property
  • Threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour has been used against the occupier, his family or agent
  • The trespassers have six or more vehicles.

Any enforcement of section 61 requires considerable resourcing and consideration has to be given to having sufficient police officers available. Most Gypsies and Travellers are law-abiding citizens. The Police will deal with crime committed by gypsies/travellers when there is a complaint and evidence to support it.

What to do if trespassers arrive on your private land

Initially, the landowner should ask the occupier to leave the land but this must not involve the use of force. The landowner could commit several criminal offences if he forcibly removes the trespasser or their property.

The best and safest course of action is to obtain a court order. If this is breached, it may then become a criminal issue. However the police cannot assist in the removal of the trespasser or their property from the land. The police do have some powers against two or more trespassers if damage has been caused or there are more than six vehicles on the land.


What is trespass?

In civil law, trespass to land consists of any unjustifiable intrusion by a person upon the land in possession of another. Trespassing is dealt with through the civil courts.

Why can’t the police move trespassers on?

The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Trespass on land itself it not a crime, it is a civil matter.

What can I do if unauthorised encampments occur on my land?

Firstly, talk to those on your land to try and agree a leaving date. If you are not willing to tolerate the encampment any longer, you or your solicitor can go to a County Court and obtain an Order granting you possession of your land. Further details can be obtained from the County Court.

There are some trespassers on a car park / piece of council land, who do I call?

You should contact the council as soon as possible so that they can take the appropriate steps to remove the trespassers.

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