New laws will make it easier to prosecute travellers who set up illegal camps.
Police will be able to arrest anyone suspected of ‘intentional trespass’ and seize their vehicles if they refuse to move on.
Home Secretary Priti Patel’s tough measures will apply to trespassers on both private land and public spaces such as village greens and school playing fields, it is understood.
A charity working on behalf of gypsies, Roma and travellers called on the Government to do more to find suitable land for the communities.
The Home Office is expected to reveal full details of the changes next week when it publishes responses to a consultation exercise. Travellers are seen above near Liverpool
A Home Office source said the legislation, included in a forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill, will speed up the process of removing unauthorised camps.
Currently, most cases of trespass are not a criminal offence and unauthorised camps are dealt with as civil matters. Only ‘aggravated trespass’ can lead to arrest, and it is difficult to prove.
Under the proposals, travellers who ignore a landowner’s request to move their vehicles on will face arrest under ‘intentional trespass’ laws carrying a three-month maximum prison sentence or a fine of up to £2,500, or both.
The Home Office source said: ‘We are delivering on our manifesto commitment to crack down on the blight of unauthorised encampments.
‘These camps cause distress and disruption for millions of people right across the country, so it’s right we are giving the police the powers they need to bring this to an end.’
It is understood police will be able to use the powers where intruders are causing ‘significant damage, disruption or distress’, such as ‘interference with utility supplies, excessive noise pollution, or litter’.
It will not apply to ‘unintentional instances of trespass, such as by ramblers and walkers’, sources said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel’s tough measures will apply to trespassers on both private land and public spaces such as village greens and school playing fields, it is understood
The Home Office is expected to reveal full details of the changes next week when it publishes responses to a consultation exercise. The law change was first mooted by Sajid Javid in 2019.
There are an estimated 3,100 caravans on unauthorised sites – around 14 per cent of the total of 22,600 on all sites.
A spokesman for Families, Friends and Travellers, a charity which works on behalf of gypsies, Roma and travellers, said: ‘It is deeply unfair that while the Government is dramatically failing to identify enough land for gypsy and traveller families to live on, the Home Secretary is working to create laws to imprison and fine families living on roadside camps for the “crime” of having nowhere else to go.
‘The Government must do more to identify land for gypsy and traveller people to live and stop placing blame on the very families they have failed.
‘Everybody needs a place to live.’