Wirral Councillor welcomes crack-down on illegal traveller sites

Proposals to give police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised caravan sites has been welcomed by a Wirral Councillor whose ward has been blighted by the problem in recent years. 
Currently such trespassing is defined in law as a civil matter but the Home Office is consulting on making it a criminal offence.
Councillor Lesley Rennie said: "Wallasey, and especially the Dips and Coastal Drive, have been the scene of several ongoing legal battles in recent years, at great cost to the local taxpayer and our local environment. 
"These proposals will shift the balance in favour of the police, council and residents and away from those who knowingly break the law."
As a result of the problem in Wirral and elsewhere, the Home Office is proposing to broaden the categories of criminal trespass to cover trespassers who enter onto any land without permission of the occupier with the intention to reside.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "Unauthorised encampments can cause misery to those who live nearby, with reports of damage to property, noise, abuse and littering.
"The public want their communities protected and for the police to crack down on trespassers. Our proposals aim to ensure these encampments can be challenged and removed as quickly as possible."
As part of the consultation, which will begin on Tuesday, the Home Office is also seeking further views from local authorities, police forces, travellers, communities and the general public on alternative measures giving the police greater powers to tackle unauthorised encampments.
These proposed amendments to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 include:
•    lowering the number of vehicles needed to be involved in an unauthorised camp before police can act from six to two;
•    giving the police powers to direct offenders to sites in neighbouring local authorities. Currently they can only direct trespassers to sites in the same area;
•    allowing officers to remove trespassers from camping on or beside a road; and
•    increasing the time - from 3 months to a year - during which offenders are not allowed to return to a site they have already been removed from.

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