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Heart of darkness

An exclusive investigation into the use of new anti-Traveller police powers by Drive 2 Survive has revealed that the police forces across England and Wales are largely reluctant to use their new powers.



An exclusive investigation into the use of new anti-Traveller police powers by Drive 2 Survive has revealed that the police forces across England and Wales are largely reluctant to use their new powers.


An in-depth investigation by Gypsy and Traveller-led campaign group Drive 2 Survive has revealed that police forces across England and Wales are reluctant to use the harsh new anti-traveller powers created by the 2022 Police Act. In total, the new powers to evict and seize caravans parked on land without permission were used just 33 times in the first 9 months that they had come into force. This represents less than one use on average for each of the 43 police forces across England and Wales. Large parts of the country from Wales to Durham and Suffolk have not used the new powers at all, but one force alone, Thames Valley Police used the powers a staggering 19 times.


The information was gathered by community advocate and researcher Jake Bowers using the rights given to citizens under the Freedom of Information Act. Of the 43 forces surveyed 20 responded with information about the use of the new powers and 10 forces did not respond at all despite being legally required to do so within 20 days. Six forces said they held no information at all about the use of the new powers, while 7 forces refused to respond saying it would take them too long to gather the information without charging a £450 fee.


Gypsy and Traveller families and campaigners will be relieved to hear that police forces are not yet enthusiastically using their new powers to persecute them, preferring to use older powers from the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act and civil procedures to move homeless families on.


But the data gathered has also revealed that one police force in particular, Thames Valley Police, which covers the counties of Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Buckinghamshire, has used the new powers a staggering 19 times which represents almost 60% of the total amount of times the new powers were used. The force also used older powers of eviction 20 times in the same 9-month period, which suggests the force is guilty of institutional racism towards nomadic Gypsies and Travellers. The combined Devon, Cornwall and Dorset Police came 2nd in their use of eviction powers, using the new and old powers a total of 33 times, but only once used the new eviction powers. 3rd place in the new Drive 2 Survive name and shame league is Leicestershire Police who used eviction powers 27 times, but only once used the new eviction powers.


The data on the use of eviction powers will be used to make maps of the parts of the country that are hostile to and more welcoming of Gypsies and Travellers. The investigation has revealed that none of the police forces across Wales have yet used the 2022 Police Act eviction powers, neither have the English forces in Durham, Norfolk, Staffordshire, or Suffolk. Most other forces have only used the new powers in a handful of occasions each, usually citing the “disruptive” nature of encampments as the reason for doing so.


Community journalist and advocate Jake Bowers said: “This research bears out what we are hearing on the ground that the police forces not only didn’t want this legislation but are very unenthusiastic about using it. It also highlights, however, that some forces are clearly hostile to nomadic Gypsies and Travellers. Serious questions need to be asked of Thames Valley Police who appear guilty of institutional racism towards the Gypsy and Traveller community.”


Drive 2 Survive co-chair Sherrie Smith added: “The fact that 23 forces failed to provide us with any information at all means that there are still large parts of England where we cannot assess the impact of the new law. Forces like the Metropolitan Police who refused to provide us with information about their enforcement activities because they said would take too long and that the Home Office had not provided them with a code to do so is simply not good enough.”


Drive 2 Survive will continue to monitor the impact of the new law and back legal attempts to challenge its use through strategic litigation. It remains convinced that the 2022 Police Act is an institutionally racist piece of legislation that must be repealed by any future government serious about integrating nomadic Gypsy and Traveller culture into British life. In the meantime the are asking Gypsies and Traveller that are subjected to eviction powers to get in touch with their community advocates on the following numbers.







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