Template MP/MS letter: Home Office Statutory Guidance for Police on Unauthorised Encampments
Please use this template to raise the issue with your local MP
- To find your MP’s email address, please go to: http://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP
- Members in Wales: to find your MS email address please go to https://business.senedd.wales/mgFindMember.aspx
- Please note this letter should go from your personal email address and not a work email address
Subject: Letter from your constituent
Dear [insert the name of your MP here]
I am concerned about the Home Office Statutory Guidance for Police on Unauthorised Encampments that has recently been published by the Home Office, and the impact that this will have on Romani and Traveller communities.
This guidance will criminalise the way that these communities live their lives as per their cultural heritage, and the measures in the guidance should be opposed.
For example, the guidance says the police and other public bodies ‘should not gold-plate human rights and equalities legislation’ when taking enforcement action. This is not reasonable guidance, and it appears to be a disturbing attempt to water down fundamental human rights in relation to Romani and Traveller people which could be illegal in domestic law.
This guidance will directly or indirectly criminalise the way of life for Romani and Traveller communities, especially in the section on what constitutes ‘significant damage and distress’. As well as discussing actual occurrences of damage and distress, the guidance also refers to the likelihood (‘likely to cause’) of it happening. It is unjust for a person or group of people to be targeted because they are judged (on unclear criteria) to be likely to commit a criminal offence. This attempt at predicting criminality sets a worrying precedent that is not compatible with the rule of law. It is highly likely that the police will be asked to intervene in situations where people complain about the risk of ‘damage and distress’ (not because any criminal behaviour has actually happened) because of the well-evidenced public prejudice towards Romani and Traveller people. This is not good use of police time, will cause harm to Romani or Traveller communities and set back efforts to reduce the social exclusion, racism, poor health outcomes and other disadvantages that affect such communities.
Also, while the guidance refers to suitable sites and negotiated stopping, there is no requirement to ensure that there is a suitable site or stopping place in England. There is a duty to provide for assessed need in Wales, for static sites and transit sites. However, this has been largely ignored and the Welsh Government must make that duty meaningful and ensure compliance and accountability for local authorities in Wales.
Until these requirements exist, and designated stopping places are made available and accessible, this part of the guidance is largely meaningless and will effectively make Romani and Traveller people pay the price for local authorities’ failure to implement their legal responsibilities.
Governments should be working with local authorities to ensure designated sites are available. This will go a significant way to addressing concerns around unlawful trespassing and encampments.
Please can you write to the Home Secretary on my behalf and raise these concerns with her and urge the Government to enter into meaningful dialogue with organisations that represent the voice of the Romani and Traveller communities.
Thank you, I look forward to hearing from you