Letter to Editor: Labour’s record on traveller injunction
Politics / Tue 27th Jun 2023 at 08:43am
A NUMBER of citizens and Labour councillors have expressed their dismay that Robert Halfon’s letter of June 25 to YourHarlow says: “sadly the previous Labour Council did not choose to renew the injunction – which has now allowed such encampments to arrive.”
The fact that Harlow Council did not pursue a renewal of the ‘unnamed persons’ Traveller injunction due to unfavourable legal advice has escaped Mr Halfon’s attention.
So, you ask, what was the legal advice Harlow Council received?
I’m not a computer hacker, but I can give you the very next best thing. That is the commentary on the Court of Appeal case concerning Bromley Council’s failed appeal for an injunction provided by Harlow Council’s barrister acting on their behalf as the Fourth Intervener in support of Bromley Council.
Harlow Council was represented by barrister Caroline Bolton of Radcliffe Chambers, who also acted for Thurrock, Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham councils as Fourth Intervener.
You can read Caroline Bolton’s commentary in full from the link in the notes below. However, these two extracts from a 12-point checklist councils should consider before applying for an injunction are significant:
3. “Before seeking a borough-wide or de facto borough-wide order the local authority should ensure that it can demonstrate that it either has a transit site, a negotiated stopping policy, or, a policy for tolerating encampments that are not acting in an anti-social manner. Local authorities that cannot demonstrate this are likely to find their injunctions refused;”
4. “The simple fact that unauthorised encampments occur within an administrative area will not in itself justify seeking a borough-wide order, or, a de facto borough wide order. There is a positive obligation to facilitate the travellers way of life, and the evidence will need to be significant to demonstrate that the interference with the travellers article 8 rights is proportionate;”
It should be noted that in the period Harlow Council were considering a renewal of the injunction there were not any transit sites in Essex or close to the Essex border in neighbouring counties, nor was there a negotiated stopping policy.
In fact, in the Bromley court judgement in paragraph 9 it states: “There are no transit sites to cater for this need, whether in Bromley or anywhere else in Greater London. The court was told that the closest transit site (to Bromley) is in South Mimms in Hertfordshire.”
On the basis of this case commentary you would have to be the world’s greatest optimist to think Harlow Council would be successful in renewing their injunction. All of which leaves Robert Halfon misleading the public.
1. Caroline Bolton’s commentary:
2. YourHarlow Robert Halfon’s letter
3. Court of Appeal Bromley Judgement by Lord Justice Coulson 21 January 2020
I have no doubt that Mr Forman's narrative is factually correct. However, he is referring to a judgement made by the Court of Appeal 21 January, 2020. The entire debate on this issue by Labour councillors highlights quite clearly that they are deliberately using this unfortunate incident to attack Harlow's MP - at no point do they condemn unauthorised encampments, which blight our town. The key point that they have completely overlooked is that the Court of Appeal judgement with regard to the issue of injunctions is in effect redundant. As of 28 June 2022, Harlow Council and other local authorities no longer need to seek to High Court injunctions to redress this problem. New legislation has been introduced. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (CJPO Act) sets out the main police powers to respond to unauthorised encampments and has been significantly amended by Part 4 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act (PCSC Act) 2022, which considerably expanded the powers that police have in relation to unauthorised encampments. Section 60C-E of the CJPO Act provides a criminal offence for “residing on land without consent in or with a vehicle”. For the offence to apply the trespasser must have at least one vehicle with them. The trespasser’s residence or conduct on the land must also have caused (or be likely to cause) significant damage, disruption, destruction, or distress. The landowner, someone representing the landowner, or the police can ask those who have met the criteria of this offence to leave the land. If the individual(s) trespassing fails to leave “as soon as reasonably practicable” after being requested to, the police can arrest them. The police can also seize and remove vehicles from those suspected of this offence. It is, therefore, quite clear that all reference to the Court of Appeal judgment has no further relevance in the light of the new Act. It is pure obfuscation by Harlow Labour Party which clearly has neither any plans nor any desire to address the issue of unlawful encampments within our town.
Re: which blight our town. Where they the ones who flytipped Northbrooks? Three weeks (oh dear) of 270*-275* having items nearby. (*For location of only. No connection inferred)
Conservative councillor James Leppard acknowledges that my narrative is factually correct. I have supplied the evidence to prove my point.
Thank you James Leppard for your explanation - I just hope it is correct because this problem has been so bad for such a long period of time.
The Court of Appeal ruling in the Bromley Council case, delivered 21 January 2020, was crucial in determining whether Harlow Council renewed its injunction due to expire on 14 July 2020. The then Labour leader of the council, Mark Ingall, states in a YourHarlow article of July 13: "On Friday (10 July 2020) following external legal advice and with great reluctance we withdrew the application to vary the injunction against unauthorised traveller encampments." The reality is legal opinion prevented a renewal of the Traveller injunction. Clearly, Robert Halfon is trying to mislead the public on this issue. See YourHarlow article: https://www.yourharlow.com/2020/07/13/harlow-council-decide-not-to-renew-unlawful-traveller-encampment-injunction/
Proof of the pudding is in the eating. The unlawful encampment is no more thanks to the new laws. No need for time consuming and costly injunctions.
The truth is the Tory MP makes another attempt to change the facts to make a popular political point. He has been called out for his misleading and untruthful comments. Similar to his misleading historical comments about securing funding for a new PAH. He should stop the political spin.
Robert Halfon is 100% correct. It was the former Labour council leader Mark Ingall that refused to extend the injunction to stop illegal travellers plotting on the green spaces of Harlow.
The key point that David is making is that the law at the time that the Labour administration was in charge was such that the chance of a successful case won was so slim as to be non-existent. Therefore the saving of public money was the wise and best choice it seems - something commentators on here are often quick to be concerned about If the law of the land has changed as pointed out it seems to me that happened after the administration changed political control (I think I am right in that?) so what is the point of bringing that up? By the way I am NOT in the Labour Party.