COURT UPHOLDS “ENSHRINED FREEDOM” OF GYPSY AND TRAVELLER RIGHT TO ROAM

21 January 2020

•    Bromley Council sought injunction to stop encampments on public land

•    Case represents first challenge by a group representing Gypsies and Travellers

•    Liberty intervened in appeal case initially brought by London Gypsies and Travellers

The Court of Appeal today ruled that Gypsies and Travellers have an “enshrined freedom” to move from one place to another, and that an injunction to prevent camping on public land would breach the rights of the communities it targeted.

Bromley Council sought the injunction, which was rejected by the High Court in May 2019, after an intervention by community group London Gypsies and Travellers.

The Court of Appeal upheld that decision and highlighted that while numerous injunctions have been granted in recent years, this was the first time one has been challenged in proceedings that included representatives of the Gypsy and Traveller community.

Fourteen councils in and around London have already obtained injunctions, breach of which may be punished with fines, imprisonment or the seizure of property of Gypsies and Travellers if they camp on public land.

Debby Kennett, CEO of London Gypsies and Travellers, said: “We are extremely pleased with this result and proud to have been involved in such an important case which advances the recognition and protection of the nomadic way of life in the UK.

“The judgment sets a high standard for councils seeking injunctions and stresses the need to put in place adequate and safe provision. We are keen to work with councils to explore alternatives to evictions and injunctions, such as negotiated stopping.”

Sam Grant, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Liberty, said: “This is a major victory for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the face of increasing hostility from local and national Governments. If you’re a member of these communities, these injunctions, like the Government’s proposals to criminalise trespass, are a real threat to your entire way of life.

“It’s now up to the Government to provide adequate safe sites for encampments to help these communities live and reduce the discrimination they face.”

According to the judgment (page 53):

“It must be recognised that the cases referred to above make plain that the Gypsy and Traveller community have an enshrined freedom not to stay in one place but to move from one place to another. An injunction which prevents them from stopping at all in a defined part of the UK comprises a potential breach of both the ECHR and the Equality Act.”

Marc Willers QC and Tessa Buchanan acted for London Gypsies and Travellers and Jude Bunting acted for Liberty.

Contact the Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656 / 07973 831 128 or pressoffice@libertyhumanrights.org.uk

Notes to editors


-    Official respondent in appeal was “persons unknown” with London Gypsies and Travellers named as intervenors.

-    34 injunctions to stop encampments on public land have been granted to councils across the UK in recent years. In London, 14 councils have obtained injunctions, which give councils powers to fine, imprison or seize the property of Gypsies and Travellers if they camp on open land.

-    The Borough of Merton, the Borough of Sutton, the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, Harlow District Council, the Borough of Barking and Dagenham, the London Borough of Redbridge, and Thurrock Council all intervened in the case.

-    The Government currently has a consultation open on proposed new police powers to criminalise trespass. Liberty is responding to the consultation to highlight how such proposals are unnecessary and will threaten the traditional way of life of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, while encouraging further discrimination against these communities. Liberty will be launching a tool to encourage people to raise these concerns with the Government through the consultation.