The Council obtained an injunction on 13 March 2018 from HHJ McKenna in the High Court which forbid 14 named defendants and ‘Persons Unknown’ from engaging in conduct within the borough of Solihull, including entering or occupying certain identified sites. The Injunction was to remain in force till 13 March 2021.
The High Court is currently considering injunctions of this nature that have been granted to a number of local authorities in different parts of the country in light of recent judgments of the courts.
On 6 November 2020 the High Court ordered that the Council should take certain steps by 20 November 2020 to file its court applications and evidence, failing which the injunction against ‘Persons Unknown’ would be set aside.
The Council considered with legal advice what steps it should take and concluded that since the Injunction was due to expire shortly in any event, it would not be a proportionate use of public resources to enter into potentially complex legal arguments about whether and what terms the Injunction should continue. Instead, the Council has allowed the Injunction to be discharged in accordance with the court’s order and it will await further guidance from the court about the correct approach to such cases if we are seeking a further Injunction.
The result of the above position is that the court has discharged the previous injunction against Persons Unknown and it is no longer in force. It remains in force against the named defendants only.
How we deal with unauthorised encampments
We know that unauthorised encampments (by members of the travelling community) on either public or private land are a concern for local residents. We understand residents would like them moved on as soon as possible.
However, when these are on public (Council owned) land we have a legal duty to ensure we follow the correct process to move them on.
In some cases it is not necessary to embark on a formal legal process as we can reach an agreement with the travelling community to leave by a certain date.
Unfortunately, in most cases we will need to pursue a process that is defined in law and we follow this as quickly as we can within the legal framework.
To lawfully remove an unauthorised encampment we have to follow the process as set out in Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 – this is the legal framework we have to work under.
There are several steps, which are summarised below:
- The Council or its representative must carry out a welfare assessment of the travelling community.
- If any welfare issues are identified the Council must provide support to the community to access the necessary welfare services.
Instruction to Leave
- Subject to there being no welfare issues, the Council or its representative must issue the community with an instruction to leave the land.
- The instruction will include a time and date when the community must leave the land by.
- If the community does not leave the land by the time and date identified in the instruction to leave, the Council can apply for a court hearing. At the court hearing the Council will ask for a Court Order to be issued, instructing the community to leave the site.
- The community must be given sufficient notice of the court hearing to enable them to make a representation at the court to contest the case.
- A period of 24 hours is typically given between a Court Summons being served and the court hearing date.
- The Court Summons must be formally served to the community by the Council or its representative.
- Subject to the Magistrate being satisfied that there is a case to remove the community, a Court Order will be granted which notifies the community that they need to leave the land they are occupying.
- The Court Order must be served to the community by the Council or its representative.
- If the community has not left the land within 24 hours following the Court Order being served, the formal eviction process can begin.
Failure to follow this process may lead to a Court Order not being granted, or the risk of a legal challenge being made by the unauthorised encampment.
If either of these situations were to happen it would mean a delay to the process and a delay in being able to move the unauthorised encampment. Therefore it is essential that each step is followed and all necessary evidence is documented to support the process.
Further information can be found at Gov.UK.