How You Regain Control of Your Land from Travellers

What do you do if you find travellers on your land, for example on a site you have bought for development?

Your first reaction is probably to phone the police. However, without a Court order, the police can do little beyond talk to the travellers. The thing you must do is act quickly and apply for an injunction or make both a possession and interim possession order.

This is vital. The longer you leave it to start legal action, the worse your situation will become. It is a certainty that if you do not act, then more travellers will arrive on your site so:

  • It becomes harder to move them on;
  • More clean-up is needed;
  • Damage is more likely to occur;
  • The more likely is it they will upset the local community who may then cause problems for any future planning application your company may make.

It can take 4-6 weeks for you to get to Court with a possession order, so you need to use an experienced solicitor who will file a certificate of urgency and get in front of a judge quickly. If it is not deemed urgent by the Court, then your solicitor can apply for a possession and interim possession order at the same time.

Else Solicitors are expert at dealing with such situations. Andy Rudkin, Head of Dispute Resolution at Else Solicitors has the knowledge and experience to get your case rapidly in front of the Court and have the appropriate legal action taken and enforced. If you have a trespassing situation, then you are invited to call Andy on 01283 526239 or at andy.rudkin@elselaw.co.uk at your earliest convenience.

This article on trespassing on private land covers:

  • Key Takeaway Points
  • Trespassing- Why Can’t the Police Deal with It?
  • Trespassing on Private Land- What Can I do About It?
  • Case Study: Trespassing on a Development Site
  • Why Else?

Reading time: 4 minutes

Key Takeaway Points

  1. Trespassing on private land is not a criminal offence. Prevention of trespassing and the removal of trespassers are the responsibility of the landowner, not the police. You need to enforce your rights by applying for an urgent injunction or both a Possession Order and Interim Possession Order at the same time.
  2. Else Solicitors can apply for an urgent injunction on your behalf if you have reasonable grounds. However, if the judge does not consider your case to be urgent then we can apply for a Possession Order and an Interim Possession Order.
  3.  A possession order can take 4-6 weeks to come to Court so you must apply for an Interim Possession Order (IPO) at the same time. An IPO is given a court appointment at the earliest opportunity but it must be at least 3 working days after you submit your claim. This is because you must serve Notice of Issue to the trespassers and give them at least 3 days’ notice of your Court appointment so they can decide if they want to attend.
  4.  Once an IPO has been granted, you then need to serve notice by attaching the order to the gates of your site or to a stake on your land. The trespassers then have 24 hours to leave the site. If they do not, they are breaking the law and can be arrested. However, many police forces will not enforce your order as this can ignite trouble.
  5. You usually need to use an enforcement agency to ensure that your Court order is complied with. Else Solicitors have a good working relationship with a highly regarded enforcement agency who will ensure that any trespassers are removed without incident. We highly recommend that you use this agency as travellers will sometimes call for back up and the situation can turn nasty if managed incorrectly.

Trespassing- Why Won’t the Police Deal With It?

Although the police have powers, they don’t always use them. There are an estimated 100,000 travellers in the UK in caravans. They need to stay somewhere and they will often target unused sites where they can either camp far from the entrance or behind a disused building that allows them to escape detection.

Trespassing on private land is not a criminal offence. If the travellers caused damage entering the land (e.g. breaking locks, fences etc.), the police would need to determine who caused the damage and then prosecute that individual. Their punishment could be a fine or imprisonment. It could not be the eviction of the whole encampment as you can only punish the wrongdoer, not their family or friends.

The duty of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. They will visit the site when you report them trespassing but beyond asking them to leave, they will not act. The sole exception is a situation where there is serious criminality or major public disorder.

Once you become aware of trespassers, you must enforce your legal rights before their number multiplies.

Trespassing on Private Land- What Can I do About It?

You must act quickly and make an urgent application for an injunction or a possession and interim possession order (IPO). The difference between an injunction and an IPO is speed and expense. An urgent injunction is less expensive; it can be heard quickly and once granted applied immediately.

Else Solicitors can apply for an urgent injunction on your behalf. It is up to a judge to decide if your case is urgent or not. Else have considerable experience in getting things into Court at an early stage as we actively look for the reasons a judge would decide that your case was urgent and give you the injunction you want.

If the judge does not agree that your case is urgent, then you need to apply for a possession order. Possession orders can take 4-6 weeks to come before the Court so you must make an Intermediate Possession Order at the same time. This costs more money but is less than the expense of dealing with the clean-up and damage if the travellers are not moved on.

There are several requirements that must be met for you to apply for an interim procession order. An important one is that an IPO does not apply to open land. However, it does apply if the land ancillary to a building is being occupied.

Else Solicitors will guide you through this process and advise you every step of the way.

Andy Rudkin can apply for an IPO on your behalf and you will be given an appointment at the Court’s earliest opportunity. However, this must be at least 3 working days after you started your claim.

This because you must give the travellers at least 3 days’ notice so they can attend the hearing if they wish to do so. You do not need to know their name to serve the notice. All you need to do is have your Notice of Issue stamped by the Court with the date and time of your appointment and fasten this onto the gates of your land or plant a stake on your land and attach it.

Your case will be heard at the appointed time and once your Interim Possession Order has been granted by the Court then those occupying your land must leave within 24 hours of the notice being served. This notice can be served by fixing to it the gates or to a stake.

It is a criminal offence for them to disobey this interim possession order. If they do not leave within 24 hours of service of the order, you can ask the police to arrest them. If convicted they can be imprisoned, or fined, or both. However, many police forces are reluctant to enforce compliance, especially if there are a large number of travellers. In some situations, using the police can make the situation worse.

The best course for enforcing your Interim Possession Order is by using court bailiffs or an enforcement agency. Bailiffs and enforcement agents are allowed to remove their caravans and vehicles and this enforced removal often causes damage to them. So, the travellers will usually move on peacefully rather than risk damage to their property. However, if there a number of travellers encamped, they might call for back up from others in the local area. This is where you need to use an enforcement agency with a long experience of managing these types of situation.

Case Study: Trespassing on a Development Site

One of Else’s clients late last year owned a brownfield site in Oldbury. The factory on a large site was being demolished so the that the land could be re-developed for housing and offices. This is a common occurrence in high population areas where land is at premium allowing the developer to clean up the area, build housing or offices and make a healthy profit.

As development hadn’t started, the site was secure but, as is often the case, security was minimal. The managing agent spotted that travellers had broken the lock on the gate and set up camp on the site in December. However, they did not move rapidly to resolve the problem and a second group turned up.

They instructed us on Friday 16th December and Else appeared in Court for them on the same day having had the judge agree to stay late as it was an urgent case. We were then given an appointment for Friday 23rd December to make an urgent injunction on the basis that the land contained asbestos which could not be disturbed.

By acting rapidly, we were able to contain the situation and maintain the local reputation of the development company.

Else have an excellent relationship with an enforcement agency who ensured that the travellers left without incident. This is not always as easy as it would appear. An enforcement agency may send 4 people to enforce the Court order and then one of the travellers calls for back up and another 20 of them arrive. This is why it is important that you manage the problem before their number rises and you use an enforcement agency experienced in such situations.

Why Else?

Else is a modern, dynamic and forward thinking solicitors who have the expertise you expect from a large, traditional law firm. We are very experienced in getting trespassers removed from your land quickly and easily.

You will discover that we are different to other legal firms. We will help you sort out your situation and then look at other ways that we can add value to your company. This could include introducing you to new customers or suppliers in our extensive network or offering you some new insight into your market or your business.

Else Solicitors has an enviable reputation for always going the extra mile and offering a personal, jargon free service. Your business is not only in trusted legal hands but will also benefit from our extensive business knowledge, experience and contacts.

If you have trespassers on your land, then we invite you to contact Andy Rudkin, Head of Dispute Resolution at Else Solicitors on 01283 526239 or andy.rudkin@elselaw.co.uk. Experience the Else difference today.

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