Councillor claims police can't move on travellers for fear of race row
Published 20 Jul 2012 09:20 12 Comments
A TORY councillor fears that Fife police won't use trespass laws to evict gypsy travellers for fear of being branded as racist.
Dave Dempsey, who represents Dalgety Bay, asked why action wasn't taken when an illegal camp was set up in the town last week.
The Press reported that travellers moved onto land owned by Ingenico, in Hillend Industrial Estate, for the second time in two years.
In July 2010 the company took court action to try to remove the travellers but Councillor Dempsey said the Trespass (Scotland) Act should have been applied.
He said, "If, as I suspect, it's relevant, I'll then be asking the police about the rumour that the top police officers have decided not to apply it to travellers in general and gypsy travellers in particular, for fear of being accused of race discrimination."
The travellers have now moved away from the Ingenico site and the Conservative councillor has called for an investigation into the non-use of the trespass law, which dates from 1865.
Councillor Dempsey said, "Again and again we see local businesses put to huge cost and inconvenience because someone decides to park caravans on their land.
"Apart from the disproportionate cost of obtaining an interdict to move the intruders on, there's the constant danger to reputation and business.
"What is a prospective client going to think if they visit and find the car park turned into a camp site?"
He continued, "Whenever this happens, we're told that it's private ground and that the owners have to go to court.
"It's popularly believed that there's no crime of trespass in Scotland yet there exists the Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 'to provide for the better prevention of trespass in Scotland'.
"At first glance, this act seems to apply to unauthorised encampments. If so, why isn't it applied?
"I have no time for those bigots who automatically assume that all travellers are up to no good.
"However, events like those in Dalgety Bay show that something's not right; that the pendulum has swung too far and needs to be brought back to the middle."
A police spokesperson said, "Fife Constabulary, in common with forces across Scotland, operates to national guidance in relation to the management of unauthorised encampments.
"The guidance was compiled after extensive consultation and recognises the sensitivities of issues which arise from such sites - both from the point of view of gypsy travellers and from local residents.
"We continue to liaise with Fife Council, the lead agency in these cases, and other interested parties.
"We will robustly investigate all reported disorder and criminality and deal with them appropriately."
Fife Council's managing solicitor, Susan Mackessack, said, "The legal context for dealing with unauthorised encampments on public and private land is complicated.
"Whilst action can be taken, it must always be considered against the Scottish Government policy on non-harassment of gypsy travellers.
"In relation to unauthorised encampments camped on council land, the law in Scotland allows the council in defined circumstances to seek a court decree for eviction of the occupiers with due notice served by sheriff officers."
She said the legal situation in Scotland concerning unauthorised encampments on private land was "more restricted" than it is in England and Wales.
Ms Mackessack explained, "The Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 makes unauthorised encampment a criminal offence in Scotland in certain circumstances.
"If land is privately owned the landowners themselves have several options.
"They can apply for a court order to evict travellers from their land or refer the matter to the police who may investigate whether a criminal offence has been committed under the Trespass (Scotland) Act. If appropriate the police may pass a report to the procurator fiscal.
"Ultimately it is for the procurator fiscal to make a decision as to whether criminal proceedings under the Trespass Act are instigated."
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Jul 20, 10:50
The cops and the council are scared of them, always have been and always will be,
Why don't the "council and coppers" compromise with them and let them camp at the beach where the radiation is...
That would suit them fine!!
Recommend? Yes 24 No 2
Jul 20, 10:56
Jul 20, 12:09
Public service announcement.
If people need to store caravans you can now do it up at Dunfermline police station.
Also the officers will wash cars if you ask them too as they are doing bugger all else.
Recommend? Yes 17 No 2
Jul 20, 12:54
Jul 20, 13:47
Jul 20, 19:16
Its private land so of course they can make them move on (if they were man enough to do it!). If the travellors set up camp in the counsillors back gardens then im sure they would be moved on very swiftly. Its the same thing, isnt it???
Recommend? Yes 11 No 3
Jul 20, 20:45
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Jul 20, 22:35
I don't understand the 'race' claim either. Travellers are not a race, they choose a way of life, much as people to choose to be Protestant, Catholic, Jehovah, Brethren, vegan etc etc - none of which are 'races' either.
Recommend? Yes 15 No 3
Jul 21, 01:35
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Jul 21, 13:29
Jul 22, 12:38
@ningin........What regulations are you refering to with regard to your comment? Has there been some kind of Bulgarian and Romanian legislation been passed recently? Your comment stinks of Fascism....dont tell me you vote SNP!
Recommend? Yes 2 No 5
Jul 22, 15:00
The Tory Councillor ought to be aware that a law passed in 2003 supercedes a law from 1865!
Everyone has statutory outdoor access rights established by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which came into effect in February 2005. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code (the Code) provides detailed guidance on the responsibilities of those exercising access rights and of those managing land and water. The Act includes various provisions which relate to camping.
Section 1 which indicates that access rights extend to 'remaining on' land for relevant purposes,
the fact that the Act does not restrict the exercise of access rights overnight, and;
Schedule 2 which inserts a new clause into the Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 which repeals the offences in that Act if 'done by a person in the exercise of the access rights created by (the 2003 Act)'.
This removes the offences of occupying or encamping on private land without permission if this takes place in the exercise of access rights.
Access rights for camping, like most other forms of non motorised recreation, extend to most places except certain specified areas. http://www.go4awalk.com/ask/wildcampinginscotland.php
Recommend? Yes 1 No 5
Jul 22, 20:01
Once again, Dave Dempsey spends more time trying to get himself in the press than actually doing his job.
The right to roam under the 2003 Open Access laws means that you can go pretty much anywhere within reason. BUT if you don't follow the code of conduct (well, essentially that) then you can be charged with aggravated trespass - something entirely different, trespass for the purpose of illegal activity.
Recommend? Yes 7 No 1
Jul 23, 14:59
Don't worry. If they are travellers, they will soon be travelling again. They have probably just stopped to catch up with paperwork such as Tax Returns and Class 1a National Insurance contributions, that may have been accidentally overlooked.
Recommend? Yes 7 No 0