Powerful support for Monbiot’s criticism of police powers consultation

The Guardian publishes Lisa Smith’s letter supporting George Monbiot’s article condemning Priti Patel’s consultation on the extension of police powers against unauthorised camps.

Lisa wrote:

George Monbiot is correct to call out Priti Patel for playing the race card in the run-up to the election (Journal, 14 November). In April, the House of Commons women and equalities committee concluded its inquiry into the inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. It concluded that “Leadership from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government … has been lacking” and called on the Cabinet Office “to create a specific work stream for eliminating Gypsy and Traveller inequalities”.

Unauthorised camping is a symptom of the lack of a coherent strategy across government, local and national. The Criminal Justice Act 1994 criminalised unauthorised camping and gave the police extensive powers. It didn’t solve the problem, and neither will the proposals in the consultation. In fact, in response to Dominic Raab’s consultation launched in 2018, around powers for dealing with unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller camps, the National Police Chiefs Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners rejected calls for a clampdown on unauthorised sites and said “criminalisation of Travellers was not the answer”. It instead called for a “significant increase” in the number of permanent and temporary sites across the country.

The women and equalities inquiry was a serious and thorough effort to improve the situation for the benefit of everyone. This consultation, with its online survey app format and leading questions, is just the opposite.

Lisa Smith Chair, The Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers

This eminently sensible and reasonable approach stands in stark contrast to the Conservatives’ same old law and order response.

We will tackle unauthorised traveller camps. We will give the
police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities. We will make intentional trespass a criminal offence, and we will also give councils greater powers within the planning system.

Tory manifesto (p.19)

ACERT EC discussed a request from Adrian Jones – Policy Officer, National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups – to respond as individuals and as an organisation.

…. the more responses we can encourage the better. If the Government wants to play the numbers game let’s outnumber them.

Adrian Jones

EC members who had completed the questionnaire as individuals commented on its subjective nature and amateur format. They felt that ACERT shouldn’t complete the questionnaire because it would be “…tantamount to collaborating with the Nazis.” Instead we will draft a letter to the Home Secretary, along the lines of Lisa’s to the Guardian, and encourage other organisations to sign it.