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Travellers will be barred from returning to illegal sites for a year under a Government crackdown to be announced in the New Year
As reported by the Daily telegraph on 16th January 2021
Police will get powers to prosecute travellers if they return to a site within 12 months, increasing the current three month time limit from the current three months. Those who breach the law will face up to three months in jail and fines of up to £2,000. It is part of an overhaul of the legislation to prevent illegal encampments which ministers say cause communities “significant distress.” The reforms, part of the Police Powers and Protection Bill due in the New Year, will give councils powers to direct travellers to authorised sites in neighbouring council districts. Currently, police are banned from moving travellers to sites outside the council area where they have camped.
Police will also be able to act sooner as the threshold for intervention will be dropped from six illegally parked caravans to two. It follows widespread complaints from MPs and residents about trespassing, noise and anti-social behaviour. It is estimated there are some 23,000 traveller caravans in England, of which 14 per cent are parked on unauthorised sites.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, is expected to make good a manifesto commitment to give police new powers “to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities.” This will be done by making it a criminal offence for travellers to intentionally trespass on private land when setting up an encampment.
The change was campaigned for by Ms Patel when she was a backbench MP alongside Alok Sharma, now the Business Secretary, and John Whittingdale, a culture minister.
Mr Sharma said: “My view is clear – the law needs strengthening and trespass needs to be made 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.”
The civil sanctions for fly tipping, which leaves farmers having to pay tens of thousands of pounds to clear up dumped rubbish, and squatting in commercial premises are expected to remain unaffected by the changes. The proposal to criminalise trespass was first mooted by the Tories in the party’s 2010 general election manifesto.
“The vast majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens – but illegal sites often give an unfair, negative image of their community and cause distress and misery to those who live nearby,” said a Government source. “There is a widespread perception that the law does not apply to travellers and that is deeply troubling.”
The moves are being opposed by traveller organisations who claim they are more about electioneering than tackling any perceived problem. The Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) charity said that even the police did not believe the new criminal powers were necessary. Responses to the Government’s consultation obtained by the charity under freedom
of information (FOI) legislation, showed that 75 per cent of police responses indicated their current powers were sufficient and/or proportionate. Additionally, 84 per cent did not support the criminalisation of unauthorised encampments, and 65 per cent said lack of site provision was the real problem.
Abbie Kirkby, advice and policy manager at FFT, said the proposed laws would make the lives of Gypsies and Travellers a misery. She said: “The evidence we have collected shows that the Home Office are deliberately ignoring police views on unauthorised encampments. The timing of the consultation made it clear that the Government’s motive was to use Gypsies and Travellers to gather votes at election time.”
Parliament debated the petition “Don’t criminalise Trespass” on 19th April 2021 and you can view the debate below and/or view the transcript below
Government response to consultation (8th March 2021)
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY – Award Winning Film (99mins)
“A People Uncounted” the untold story of ‘Perajmos’ the Roma Holocaust will be shown at a variety of venues in Surrey with free entry (18+ only). Subtitles will be read out LOUD.
‘A People Uncounted ‘ – The untold story of the Roma Holocaust
The award winning film ‘A People Uncounted’ will be shown on and around Holocaust Memorial Day (not available January 2021 due to Covid19) in recognition of what was suffered by one of Surrey’s largest ethnic minorities, and its legacy today.
This full-length (99 mins) feature film has been nominated for/won five awards internationally since it was made in 2012. Its UK premiere was held at the headquarters of Amnesty International in 2015. Members of Surrey Gypsy Traveller Communities Forum attended this, and the Forum has since bought the right to show the film to public audiences free of charge in the UK.
Here is the official trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7slCGDaSWY
‘A People Uncounted’ tells the story of the Roma, commonly referred to as Gypsies – people who have been both romanticised and vilified in popular culture. The Roma have endured centuries of intolerance and persecution in Europe, most notably the Holocaust genocide where an estimated 500,000 were murdered. This film documents their culturally rich yet often difficult lives, and demonstrates how their present state has been deeply shaped by the tragedies of the past.
Filmed in 11 countries and featuring dozens of Roma – including Holocaust survivors, historians, activists and musicians – ‘A People Uncounted’ brings the Romany history to life through the rich interplay of their poetry, music, and compelling first-hand accounts. As ethnic intolerance flares up in Europe, this film sheds light on this unique culture while presenting the Roma tale as emblematic of the world’s legacy of racism and genocide.
Closer to home, this film presents a powerful and thought-provoking challenge to what the Commission for Racial Equality has described as ‘The last acceptable form of racism’ in our own country. This is particularly significant in Surrey, which has one of the largest Romany Gypsy and Traveller populations in the UK.
Here is a link to the five minute film made with and for Gypsies and Travellers in Surrey to explain about ‘Brighter Futures’: our strategy to deliver equality of life chances for the children of their communities https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PH6tmuix7Z4
SGTCF Obituary to Ann Wilson MBE – R.I.P.
Hundreds turned out for the funeral of Romany Gypsy Ann Wilson at St. Mary & St. Nicholas, Leatherhead, on Thursday 14th February 2019. People from across Surrey came together to mourn the passing of a gentle, wise, and dynamic woman who had worked tirelessly to being about a better life for Gypsy and gaujo in her home county.
Tribute after tribute was piled up in the flowers which stood around her peaceful grave in the little cemetery that lies beneath Box Hill. Many of these remembered the day in 2014 when Ann’s achievements were recognised at the highest level and she was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by the Queen at Windsor Castle, for services to the Gypsy and Traveller community.
That was the end of a long journey which began on 24th June 1959, when Ann was born to Henry Smith and his wife Jean. Cousin twice removed to the Gypsy Council leader Jasper Smith, and third cousin of the singer Ambrose Cooper, Ann came of a talented breed. She grew up with her sisters Carol and Mary at Effingham, and began her education in the village school.
Ann loved horses from a young age and would gallop without a care on her black cob Solo. The same energy that impelled her as a wild child to race across Effingham Common sustained her later when as a grown woman she fought against the prejudice snapping at the heels of her people. Teaming up with her lifetime friend Hilda Brazil, she founded the Surrey Gypsy Traveller Communities Forum in 1996. The Forum grew until it was the recognised point of contact with all Traveller groups with social services in the county.
Ann went on to teach Gypsy history and culture to the NHS, Fire Service, Police, councillors and charities throughout Surrey. She regularly attended conferences across England, particularly London, where she visited the Houses of Parliament to advise Government Ministers who knew nothing of the community and had no idea of the impact their legislation was having on the Gypsy way of life.
At home, she supported adult literacy for those wanting to improve their reading and writing, assisted young people needing support with the driving test, made accurate assessments of community numbers for local authorities, and set up projects for health and well-being. She worked on Gypsy Skills, one of the most successful projects of its day for educating children who struggled with the unfamiliar culture of school.
How did the quicksilver, brazen girl become such a steady worker for other people’s good? Ann put it down to her experience of being born again, in 1985 at the Coign church in Woking. ‘At first I thought my friends had set me up – because everything the preacher said, it spoke directly to me. But when I went and faced him, he didn’t know who I was at all. So I realised something was happening that I hadn’t reckoned for. And I gave my life to the Lord Jesus’.
Ann had married Michael Wilson in 1978, a year after they met at the Derby. They were stopping across the way from Little Egypt, the ancient meadows down by the River Mole. Not long after, Michael came to God, and his family after him, and then everyone on the site, until Little Egypt became Salvation Place. The church built by their united efforts is still at the heart of the community, and hosted a gathering for the many mourners who came to Ann’s funeral.
Her two girls, Jean and Annie, were the centre of Ann’s life, followed from 2002 onwards by the grandchildren: Shakiah, Cheyanne, TJ, Jacob-Henry and Jack. She loved them all, and spoiled them rotten at Christmas time. In return they listened to stories of her travels to France, Germany, Greece, Romania and beyond – not on holiday, but as someone furthering the rights of her community. Closer to home, she helped Gypsies Got Talent contests at Bourne Hall in Ewell and at the Derby. It was at one of these events she spotted the talent of a young Scarlett Lee, well before Simon Cowell and his X Factor caught up with the news.
Above all else, Ann was proud about who she was, always fighting for Gypsies to be recognised fairly and be treated equally. A great heart has been taken from us. Soov te mishto, nogo Romani pen.
Click above to read tribute to Ann Wilson from Surrey Minority Ethnic Forum (SMEF)
For latest stories affecting the GRT community produced by The Traveller Movement of Britain (TMB), copy & paste the below link into your web browser
Brighter Futures for GRT children and young people
short film on YouTube
Click on link or put “Brighter Futures Gypsy” in YouTube search to find out more from youngsters living in Surrey.