'Dog whistle politics' Greater powers to tackle travellers' camps slammed

Punishments include prison sentences but some groups are furious with the plans.

Adrian Jones, policy officer of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups said the Government’s plans break both the Equalities Act and the European Convention of Human Rights and were “extremely likely” to be met with legal challenges.

He also said there was a “major issue” which the Government was “completely ignoring”, the lack of transit sites for travellers to go when they arrive in an area.

Mr Jones stressed most travelling groups are well-behaved and do not leave mounds of rubbish behind. However, Daily Express reported just yesterday of a group which allegedly caused £5,000 of damage to a hotel car park in Hampshire after staying there “illegally”.

“No one probably heard about the family who were staying in Wokingham who left all their rubbish in neat bags for the dustman and spent time having cups of tea with the locals who wanted to learn more about the lives of travellers,” Mr Jones said.

“The point is, the government is doing nothing to work towards more of these transit sites.

“That’s what’s needed and very little is getting done. Instead, we have the worst kind of dog whistle politics around this issue.”

Mr Jones, who lives in Spencers Wood, Berkshire, argued there are few sites specifically in which travellers can reside.

“I cannot think of any transit sites anywhere in Berkshire,” he added.

“And in fact, there are very few in the whole country.

“There are some around Birmingham and the evidence is they work pretty well.

“One silly rule is that an illegal encampment has to be set up before it can move to the transit site, but on the whole the families like living at these sites.”


Politicians last month stressed the new measures will only target “harmful encampments which reflect badly on the wider nomadic community as a whole, the majority of whom are law-abiding”.

But Mr Jones believes officers across the country already have enough authority.

He said: “Police have plenty of powers over Traveller camps, it’s just that most people don’t know what they are.

“They can do a lot, but it’s easy for the Government to use these dog-whistles.”

The move was promised in the last Conservative Party manifesto, but the Home Office has insisted “the vast majority of Travellers are law abiding”.

Speaking previously in anticipation of the changes, Tory MP John Redwood for Wokingham in Berkshire said: “Action is needed to address the sense of unease and intimidation residents feel when an unauthorised encampment occurs; the frustration at not being able to access amenities, public land and business premises; and the waste and cost that is left once the encampment has moved on.”

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