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THE LAW OF
Lupton Fawcett LLP Partner Hayden Glynn considers what steps a landowner can take to evict a traveller encampment that trespass on their land.
A landowner seeking to evict travellers or other trespassers from their land broadly speaking have two routes they can go down. Firstly, they can commence court proceedings in trespass seeking a court order compelling the trespasser(s) to leave. A claim against trespassers does not have to identify them by name but does have to be supported from the outset by witness evidence in support of the claim. The court will consider if the trespassers have any right to occupy the land and if not make the order for their eviction. If the trespassers do not comply with the order then an enforcement agent can be instructed to remove the trespassers from the land. Alternatively if the landowner seeks a more immediate remedy without reference to the courts they can seek to rely on a common law right of eviction based upon the historic right where a landowner can use reasonable force to remove a trespasser who has ignored a request to leave the property.
Whilst the right can be exercised by the land owner in person it is recommended that professional enforcement agents are instructed to ensure the eviction attempt is carried out lawfully. The police should be notified of any such eviction attempt before it goes ahead.
However, the risk in attempting to remove trespassers from land, without the comfort of a court order giving a landowner the express right to do so, is that if the alleged trespassers do have a right to occupy the land then the landowner may be committing a criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. It is therefore essential that any landowner takes legal advice before taking any action to remove a trespasser without a court order. A landowner in either event should report any unauthorised traveller encampments to the local authority and police who have powers to deal with such encampments. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 permits the police to direct unauthorised encampments to leave land and not return for three months if the particular requirements of the act are met. Given the risks involved in evicting a suspected trespasser unlawfully, it is recommended that a landowner takes legal advice before committing to any particular course of action.