/ Trespass Consultation

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MeMeMe 09:54 Wed

I'm not sure if this has been posted before but there is currently a government consultation on changes which may affect access to the hills. It remains to be seen if this is a genuine consultation or not but it may be one way to get your voice heard if you want to influence these changes.

Some commentary on the consultation - https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/15/tresspass-trap-law-land-travelling-people-rights

The consultation - https://www.homeofficesurveys.homeoffice.gov.uk/s/I1EI5/

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pasbury 10:33 Wed
In reply to MeMeMe:

See this thread too:

https://www.ukhillwalking.com/forums/off_belay/unauthorised_encampments_consultation-713724

The consultation seems deeply flawed as it assumes respondents want to increase the scope of criminal trespass by default.

Post edited at 10:40
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Neil Williams 10:55 Wed
In reply to pasbury:

I think most people probably do want to increase it when it comes specifically to evicting travellers from land where they shouldn't be.  So this is probably a fair assumption.

As I have said before I would welcome them if they complied with the Country Code or similar approaches used by wild campers, which is what they're essentially doing.  I'm yet to see any that do.

The danger is that it causes people to get a criminal record for wild camping or straying from a footpath.

Post edited at 10:55
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MeMeMe 11:04 Wed
In reply to Neil Williams:

> I think most people probably do want to increase it when it comes specifically to evicting travellers from land where they shouldn't be.  So this is probably a fair assumption.

Apart from the police interestingly.

_Consultations_ should really seek to avoid making assumptions.

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Neil Williams 11:16 Wed
In reply to MeMeMe:

> Apart from the police interestingly.

Not overly surprisingly, because they are underresourced, and if traveller eviction moves from being a civil matter to a criminal one it'll cost them to do it rather than Councils or private individuals (depending on land ownership) who have to deal with it and pay the cost at present.

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Simon Caldwell 12:13 Wed
In reply to Neil Williams:

Maybe you just don't notice the majority who travel is small groups and behave responsibly, and have jumped to the conclusion that the highly visible antisocial minority are representative?

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Simon Caldwell 12:15 Wed
In reply to MeMeMe:

Well I've filled out the consultation.

I notice that the survey is submitted to smartsurvey.co.uk rather than a government website. This doesn't feel right somehow, is it normal?

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pasbury 12:19 Wed
In reply to Neil Williams:

But the police point is that existing powers are sufficient. Is there really such a problem to be dealt with here?

The possibility of these powers being used for purposes other than the advertised ones are potentially huge.

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pasbury 12:21 Wed
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

I hope you've read the questions very carefully:

“To what extent do you agree or disagree that knowingly entering land without the landowner’s permission should only be made a criminal offence if it is for the purpose of residing on it?”

My italics.

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MeMeMe 12:29 Wed
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

> Well I've filled out the consultation.

> I notice that the survey is submitted to smartsurvey.co.uk rather than a government website. This doesn't feel right somehow, is it normal?

I noticed that too but have no idea if that's normal. It starts off on the gov.uk domain so presumably it's intentional.

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PeterM 12:34 Wed
In reply to pasbury:

" the purpose of residing on it?”

Residing - that could include camping, staying at a bothy, could it not, unless worded much more specifically? The consultation is badly worded and will probably lead to legislation that will restrict access for all in England..

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MeMeMe 12:40 Wed
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Not overly surprisingly, because they are underresourced, and if traveller eviction moves from being a civil matter to a criminal one it'll cost them to do it rather than Councils or private individuals (depending on land ownership) who have to deal with it and pay the cost at present.

I've not seen that suggested elsewhere, do you have some expertise in this area?

I've just seen it suggested that the police think they already have enough powers in this area (and possibly not enough resources to enforce existing powers?) so don't think additional powers are necessary. Also that provision of sites is an issue.

Frankly I'd rather see the trespass laws move towards the situation in Scotland rather than become more restrictive (and that's talking as a landowner albeit a modest one!).

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pasbury 12:46 Wed
In reply to PeterM:

The difficulty with the wording is that if you agree with the statement then you are saying that you agree that trespass with intent to reside should be made a criminal offence.

If you disagree with the statement then you are saying that all trespass should be made a criminal offence.

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pasbury 12:52 Wed
In reply to PeterM:

This is from page 19 of the 2019 Conservative Manifesto, and it's the whole paragraph so no context problem. My italics.

 We will tackle unauthorised traveller camps. We will give the police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities. We will make intentional trespass a criminal offence, and we will also give councils greater powers within the planning system.

That last sentence is not qualified in any way.

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Simon Caldwell 13:02 Wed
In reply to pasbury:

Yes I noticed that. So I put a neutral answer and gave my view in the comments that trespass should remain a civil offence and that existing laws cover criminal damage and all the other stuff they claim they are targeting.

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Neil Williams 13:29 Wed
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

> Maybe you just don't notice the majority who travel is small groups and behave responsibly, and have jumped to the conclusion that the highly visible antisocial minority are representative?

Possible, but my impression of them in MK where they seem to hang around a lot is that caravans = trouble.

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Neil Williams 13:31 Wed
In reply to MeMeMe:

> I've not seen that suggested elsewhere, do you have some expertise in this area?

No, I'm just drawing conclusions from it being very well known that the Police are underresourced.

> I've just seen it suggested that the police think they already have enough powers in this area (and possibly not enough resources to enforce existing powers?) so don't think additional powers are necessary. Also that provision of sites is an issue.

The issue isn't sites, the issue is the way they park up and then make a mess of land.  If they adhered to the Country Code (i.e. "leave no trace") and didn't commit petty crime I'd welcome them.

> Frankly I'd rather see the trespass laws move towards the situation in Scotland rather than become more restrictive (and that's talking as a landowner albeit a modest one!).

I would with regard to trespass on foot, but I am happy that vehicular trespass should be criminalised.

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Simon Caldwell 13:36 Wed
In reply to Neil Williams:

> I am happy that vehicular trespass should be criminalised

Including parking up in a layby for the night? One of the proposals would make that illegal too.

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Neil Williams 13:51 Wed
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

> Including parking up in a layby for the night? One of the proposals would make that illegal too.

I wouldn't be strongly opposed to that if the layby had clear signage prohibiting overnight parking, or was privately-owned and the owner had not given permission to park there.

I don't overly object to caravanners/motorhomers/lorry drivers parking up overnight in the middle of nowhere, FWIW, but I do in built up areas - it invariably brings antisocial behaviour like noise, littering, public urination/defecation etc.

Post edited at 13:53
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rogerwebb 14:34 Wed
In reply to MeMeMe:

The law in Scotland already makes some forms of trespass a criminal offence. Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 S3. This act has never been used against wild campers but is used against travellers. A distinction has been made between 'encamp' which arguably implies some permanence and 'camp'.

'Every person who lodges in any premises or occupies or encamps on any land being private property without the consent and permission of the owner or legal occupier of such premises or land and every person who encamps or lights a fire on or near any road or enclosed or cultivated land or in any plantation without the consent and permission of the owner or legal occupier of such road, land or plantation shall be guilty of an offence as herein provided'

That lot does not extend to anything done in excersise of rights created under the 2003 act. Nor does that act repeal the 1865 act.

If the law in England and Wales does end up like the surprisingly more onerous law in Scotland it would seem likely that it will be interpreted in a similar fashion. 

It is worth reiterating that the 1865 act was never used against campers and when attempts were made to try and use it against hill walkers they failed (unless criminal damage was involved)

Whether or not it is reasonable to have such a law directed at an ethnic minority without providing decent legal sites is a different question. 

Post edited at 14:40
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Neil Williams 15:02 Wed
In reply to rogerwebb:

> Whether or not it is reasonable to have such a law directed at an ethnic minority without providing decent legal sites is a different question.

Romany Gypsies are an ethnic minority.  I'd question whether general travellers (the ones that cause the issues) actually are, or whether it's even discrimination as the same rules apply to everyone.

Post edited at 15:02
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syv_k 15:25 Wed
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Romany Gypsies are an ethnic minority.  I'd question whether general travellers (the ones that cause the issues) actually are, or whether it's even discrimination as the same rules apply to everyone.

Irish Traveller families are also an ethnic minority I think.

Two types of discrimination - direct discrimination doesn’t apply, because as you say the same law applies to everyone. Indirect discrimination is when a minority group is disproportionately affected.

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Marek 15:29 Wed
In reply to rogerwebb:

I always feel nervous when a poorly worded law which make a broad range of activities illegal is justified by a promise that it's execution will be tempered by reasonableness on the part of the enforcement agencies. "You are a criminal, but today we choose not to arrest/convict you."

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rogerwebb 17:29 Wed
In reply to Marek:

Absolutely, I am completely with you.

Some of the laws with the best intentions have awful consequences and the drafting of new law seems to have got worse (at least in Scotland but I doubt its any better south of the border).

Post edited at 17:41
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pec 21:21 Wed
In reply to syv_k:

> Two types of discrimination - direct discrimination doesn’t apply, because as you say the same law applies to everyone. Indirect discrimination is when a minority group is disproportionately affected.

The minority group aren't being disproportionately affected since they are the ones overwhelmingly causing the problem in the first place so any legal enforcement against them is entirely proportionate to the problem they cause.

Being an ethinic mionority does not give you the right to behave in grossly antsocial ways.

I would argue that the people disproportionately affected by travellers are law abiding residents of the areas they pitch up in and council tax payers who have to fork out tens of thousands of pounds to clear up the sh*t they leave behind and repair the damage they caused.

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pasbury 21:39 Wed
In reply to pec:

You are dehumanising people. Plus you can’t spell very well, although antsocial is a cool word. 

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pec 23:01 Wed
In reply to pasbury:

> You are dehumanising people.

Rubbish, I'm not dehumanising anyone I'm pointing the reality that illegal traveller encampments usually leave damage and piles of rubbish, often literally sh*t, behind them.

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gravy 23:14 Wed

Reading between the lines it is a horrible vindictive bit of legislation in prospect.  At every stage there is law in place to cover it already.  It is the CJB of our time.  It will make bad law and will have the prospect for awful side-effects and abuse.

Get orrrf my land!

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Howard J 00:51 Thu
In reply to MeMeMe:

There are two aspects to this.  One is the impact this will have on Travellers, and as citizens we should all have a view on whether the proposals are necessary and appropriate.  The other, from our perspective as climbers and walkers, is the impact it might have on us, and on others outside the purported target community

I think the Guardian article is highly misleading, and a bit hysterical (although I do agree that the wording of the consultation is slanted).  Trespass in some circumstances is already a criminal offence under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.  What is being suggested is tightening this up, in particular so that there need be only 2 vehicles on the land instead of 6 or more.  At present the law concerns trespass with vehicles, so I think the idea that this could be extended to wild campers or the homeless is fanciful.

Nevertheless we need to be watchful that responses based on people's concerns about Travellers do not result in legal changes which, intentionally or otherwise, could go a lot wider.  We need to keep a close eye on the draft legislation, which could be quite different from what is currently being consulted on - if for example the need for a minimum number of vehicles were to be removed.

The consultation does allow comments along with the agree/disagree options which permits a more nuanced response, so the wider concerns could perhaps be raised that way.

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EarlyBird 01:28 Thu
In reply to pec:

Are there any stats to back up that assertion? Perhaps it's just that the problematic sites get noticed. What about the travellers who quietly come and go? Would you notice?

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Neil Williams 08:34 Thu
In reply to pec:

> Rubbish, I'm not dehumanising anyone I'm pointing the reality that illegal traveller encampments usually leave damage and piles of rubbish, often literally sh*t, behind them.

Exactly.

If they followed the principle of "leave no trace" (including having things like ground tracking so they don't churn the grass up and not intimidating people with large dogs clearly trained to do so), nobody would give a stuff.

But they don't.  They are inevitably antisocial in many different ways, and until that changes they are not welcome.

I don't care an iota about their ethnicity, I care about their actions - actions that are very much human.

In any case, I have a general view that using a motor vehicle is a responsibility, not a right, and you drive one on the public highway or in places you have express permission, not onto other peoples' land without asking.  Hence why I would make vehicular trespass a criminal offence (it could potentially be a road traffic offence with a fine and points, perhaps?) but not trespass on foot.

Post edited at 08:36
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tlouth7 09:00 Thu
In reply to Howard J:

> At present the law concerns trespass with vehicles, so I think the idea that this could be extended to wild campers or the homeless is fanciful.

The consultation mentions trespass with the intention to reside on the land, this would cover sleeping rough and wild camping.

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Neil Williams 09:40 Thu
In reply to Neil Williams:

(Noting that a *motor vehicular* trespass law wouldn't affect Romany gypsies using traditional horse-drawn caravans)

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Simon Caldwell 10:07 Thu
In reply to Neil Williams:

Most of what is proposed is not restricted to access with motor vehicles. And some that is, includes parking in a layby.

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In reply to MeMeMe:

Just a quick note to say that at the BMC we are aware of this and will be submitting a response but in the meantime we are also seeking some expert opinions and views on the actual intentions of the legislative changes being consulted on and of any unintended (or indeed intended!) consequences of any legislation put forward as a result of this consultation, that could have an adverse affect on climbers, mountaineer, hill-walkers and others in the outdoor sector. We will also be using our contacts and influence with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mountaineering and working with other recreational bodies (Ramblers, Open Spaces Society,  Sport & Recreation Alliance, etc.)  to raise this issue at government level. 

At this time the advice we have is that it's unlikely and it's not intended to be used against any recreational activity such as wild camping or to criminalise general access to land for recreation or to change the basic premise of trespass to make it a criminal offence rather than a civil offence, however we will be seeking reassurance from and making the point to government that any legislation created by this consultation should not be used against recreational users. 

Elfyn Jones

BMC Access & Conservation Officer (Wales)

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Neil Williams 10:55 Thu
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

> Most of what is proposed is not restricted to access with motor vehicles. And some that is, includes parking in a layby.

Indeed.  My feedback was that it should be restricted to motor vehicles and related trailers (caravans, trailer tents etc).  With regard to laybys or parking on the public highway I see no need for anything specific - parking restrictions can be used to define and enforce how long anyone may remain there on a local basis based on any local issues, e.g. I would support "no overnight parking" being put on any layby in a built-up area to prevent drivers of refrigerated lorries parking overnight in such laybys due to noise from the refrigeration unit, though I couldn't give a monkeys who parks in a layby outside a town or for how long they do so provided they neither litter nor cause damage, nor act in an intimidating manner if asked to leave somewhere they are not entitled to be.  Sadly, they very often do all three of those things.

There are also places where I don't think people should be pitching tents even if homeless, e.g. on city streets.  In MK there is a huge amount of undeveloped green land where you could plonk a tent and nobody would even know it was there, and if they did they wouldn't care anyway.  If I was homeless I can't imagine why I would want to sleep in a city centre where my safety was quite possibly at risk every night.  I quite like the principle of wild camping (with access only on foot) being allowed, regardless of reason, but you have to be more than a certain distance from an inhabited residential building.

Post edited at 11:01
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Marek 11:35 Thu
In reply to Elfyn Jones BMC Cymru/Wales:

<SNIP>

> At this time the advice we have is that it's unlikely and it's not intended to be used against any recreational activity such as wild camping or to criminalise general access to land for recreation or to change the basic premise of trespass to make it a criminal offence rather than a civil offence, however we will be seeking reassurance from and making the point to government that any legislation created by this consultation should not be used against recreational users. 

This is the bit I have problem with. I do not believe that enacting a wide ranging law that criminalises a broad range of generally acceptable activities and then just saying that there is "no intent to use it" defensible. In effect it makes the law (or at least the enforcement of it) subject to the whim of individuals in the police and judiciary. I can see no justification for this approach in a democracy.

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Howard J 13:13 Thu
In reply to Marek:

We don't yet know what a draft law will say or how wide-ranging it will be.  What has been put out is not in legal language and should be read in context.  However we should be concerned that responses to the consultation made in the context of dealing with Travellers might be used to draft a law which might, intentionally or otherwise, have much wider effect.  Governments have a long history of the law of unintended consequences, the recent pension changes which have crippled the NHS being only one example.  They are also good at ignoring those who point out that these dangers can actually be foreseen.  

We should not be complacent, and I would urge people to respond to the consultation and make these points in the comments.  However until we see a draft Bill then we won't actually know what is being proposed or what risks it might present.

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Coel Hellier 13:38 Thu
In reply to Howard J:

> I would urge people to respond to the consultation and make these points in the comments. 

Agreed.  The proposed law should not be a problem of it's properly worded -- such as applying only to trespass with a motorised vehicle, and only when the intention is to "reside" (which is different from an overnight stop). 

It would be good if climbers completed the consulation to make these points. 

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Simon Caldwell 16:32 Thu
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Not a problem for us, perhaps, but certainly a problem for those law-abiding travellers who do no more than stop for a few nights and move on without stealing or damaging anything.

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teh_mark 16:35 Thu
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

In addition, perhaps, to those who prefer the simple life of living in the back of their camper van and not causing a nuisance. Travellers of a different sort, somewhat closer to home.

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FreeloaderJoe 20:11 Thu

The UK and in particularly England is far too densely populated for so called "travellers" to just park up anywhere they please. The damage caused, mess left and general atmosphere of anarchy is always horrible particularly in quiet rural communities.  Normally I'm with George Monbiot, but on this issue I am with the Torys. 

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