The police, the law and travellers
After the unlawful traveller encampment earlier in the year that started in April on land along the A505 at Thriplow Heath in April and lasted through till late May, with moves by the travellers to land at Duxford and Hinxton, many local parish councils wrote to the police in the summer to express their concerns at the way the matter was handled, as did I.
The unlawful fly-tipping that took place on the land has still not been cleared and I will be asking South Cambs what has happened to their plans to prosecute. The district council has recently published a draft housing plan which includes proposals for increasing the number of traveller pitches in the district, and some “temporary pitches”. Will that help in reducing the number of unlawful trespasses villages have to put up with, or will temporary become permanent.
The police contacted me earlier in the autumn to ask if they could have a discussion with parish councils locally about what the police can and cannot do when these traveller trespasses happen, and they wanted to try set out and explain the laws under which they operate. I set up the meeting at Newton and nine parish councils were represented, together with the area inspector, Paul Rogerson, and Sergeants Emma and Phil.
There was some frank discussion, and challenges from the parish councils, with the police being clear on their duties under the law, the choices they have to make, and providing some background and insights on travellers issues in the area and the options for parish councils when faced with a case of unlawful trespass. There was also a useful exchange of information on other separate issues to do with rural crime, especially hare coursing.
As a postscript, a few days later the police responded very quickly to a report of hare coursing at Thriplow Heath and mobilised a helicopter and several units, including an armed one, and tracked and arrested three men in a chase that ended four miles away up at Chrishall.