With effect from 28 June 2022, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 came into force in England and Wales. The Act introduces a new offence in England and Wales relating to unauthorised encampment on land, in or with a vehicle and gives police additional powers to seize and remove property from land.
The introduction of the offence under the Act will be welcomed by holiday and residential park owners in providing an additional method of recourse when faced with unauthorised encampments involving vehicles. This offence can be used in conjunction with existing police powers and traditional civil enforcement action.
When has an offence been committed?
The offence will be committed if a person:
- resides or intends to reside on land in or with a vehicle;
- fails to leave the land or remove their property without reasonable excuse when asked to do so; and
- they have caused, or are likely to cause, significant damage, disruption, or distress.
What is meant by vehicle?
Vehicle includes any vehicle (whether or not it is in a fit state for use on roads). Caravans (as defined in section 29(1) of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960) are included.
Who can ask the trespasser to leave or remove their property?
For the offence to be committed, the occupier of the land, a representative of the occupier or a police officer must ask the person to leave or to remove their property in order to trigger the offence.
The question of who is in occupation of different parts of a park may not be straightforward. Park operators should consider taking advice about this. We also advise you to contact the police straight away if there is any concern that approaching the trespassers could put you or anyone on the site in danger.
What is meant by damage?
Damage under the Act is widely defined and includes damage to the environment, including excessive noise, litter and waste.
What should you do if an offence has been committed under the Act?
When faced with unauthorised encampments, it is vital for landowners to act quickly and take professional advice, so that a combined criminal and civil approach can be taken to ensure that possession of the land is restored as quickly as possible, with minimal loss and damage caused. Tozers have a great deal of experience in acting for park owners dealing with trespassers and unauthorised encampment and can help to advise you on the civil options available to you.
How can Tozers help?
For further help or support, please contact our specialist Parks team who will be happy to provide bespoke advice and guidance.