75. Memorandum from Friends, Families
Thank you for contacting us, as you may be aware
FFT is a membership based democratically controlled organisation
that was established during the passage through Parliament of
the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. It has since grown
into a nationally recognised voluntary organisation, which serves
the whole of the Traveller Community, both traditional and new.
The majority of work promoted by FFT is carried out by an Advice
and Information Unit, based in Brighton. The work the unit covers
are all areas and issues that affect Travellers as well as carrying
out research, monitoring, mediation and policy development at
local and national levels.
Having consulted with the Community Legal Partnership's
Travellers Advice Team solicitors, we have compiled the following
response to your questions:
1. The main Convention Rights that are applicable
to Gypsies and Travellers are:
Article 6 Right to a Fair Trial:
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 Sections 61, 77
and 78 are incompatible with the right to a fair trial due to
the fact that non compliance with these sections results in immediate
criminal proceedings being taken against that person/s.
Article 8 The Right to Private and
Family Life: Lack of effective local authority provision often
means that Travellers are not at liberty to pursue a nomadic existence
that is free from persecution and harassment and is part of their
Article 14 Discrimination: Articles
1 and 2 of the First Protocol and in very extreme cases Article
2. The unique need of Gypsies and Travellers
are often over looked by public bodies who fail to recognise their
nomadic existence as a viable way of life, much legislation is
designed to meet the needs of sedentary society. In particular
we would point out the failure of local authorities (and sometimes
other public bodies, especially the police) in their dealings
with unauthorised encampments:
Decisions to evict such encampments
even when no nuisance or annoyance is being caused and they are
on underused or disused land and without any alternative being
Failure of government to reinstate
duty to provide sites despite opposing repeal of that duty in
the 1994 Criminal Justice Act when they were in opposition.
The vast majority of planning applications
from Travellers are refused by local authorities in direct contradiction
of government indications, such as those in Circular 1/94.
3. In my opinion this can only be assessed
on a case by case basis.
4. At least a third of all Travelling families
have nowhere to legally station their vehicles forcing them onto
unauthorised encampments and the cycle of evictions that follow.
This impacts at every other level of their existence; health and
well being, education and work. You may well be aware that Travellers
the highest infant mortality rates
the lowest life expectancy
appalling accommodation provisions
the highest illiteracy rates
the most racist press coverage
provoke the most complaints to the
Commission for Racial Equality
have been seemingly excluded from
the remit of the Social Exclusion Unit
are moved around the country at the
cost of millions to local authorities and other landowners
Those Travellers who live on official sites
have no security of tenure at the moment.
5. The public bodies are identified above,
but may additionally include various government departments or
bodies such as, the Welsh Development Agency or the National Trust
even. There are insufficient sites and has been since the repeal
of the 1968 Caravans Act. The 1994 Criminal Justice Bill effectively
removed the statutory duty to provide for Gypsies and Travellers.
The main reason for failure to rectify would appear to be a lack
of political will.
6. There is no official Inspectorate (see
The Traveller Reform Bill).
7. We have raised issues with the Commission
for Racial Equality, though this has in the past been less than
satisfactory with a reluctance to take Traveller cases forward.
9. No should be the Commission (see Traveller
Law Reform Bill).
10. Legal action has been to date the only
way of trying to improve the situation. Since October 2000 the
Travellers Advice Team (part of the Community Law Partnership)
have dealt with the following cases:
Albert Smith v ODPM (security of
tenure-going to Court of Appeal).
Fuller v Dorset Constabulary (s61).
Piggott v Bedfordshire CC (allocation
Porter v South Bucks (planning injunctions).
Berry and O'Connor (two cases)effectively
overturning Gibb on definition of a Gypsy.
Price v Carmarthenshire (homelessness
and accommodation-ongoing) and many more.
11. We desperately need a change in legislation:
bring back duty; loosen planning guidance; monitor the whole thing
(see Traveller Law Reform Bill). We'd like to see an end to police
12. Yes there is scope both for Human Rights
Commission and for Gypsy and Traveller Commission. With regard
to the latter (see Traveller Law Reform Bill), though we would
envisage the Commission having wider powers than indicated in
13. See above.
23 January 2003