How often does this happen
The good news is that this does not happen very often. But it has been known for unauthorised camps, such as gypsy and traveller camps to move onto private land in the district without permission.
Our top advice
Your safety should always be the top priority - that is why we say:
- Do not use force or try to remove the occupants yourself
- If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, inform the police
- Consult a solicitor as soon as possible
Contact a solicitor. They will use the powers of the law to help you. They may go through the courts and use ‘Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules' ('CPR') to evict the trespassers.
Your solicitor will have to contact the County Court - although in some circumstances they may go straight to the High Court; especially if there's a risk of public disturbance.
To start a claim your solicitor will need to file claim forms with the Court. They can download them from http://www.justice.gov.uk/forms or get them from the Court itself.
You will also need to submit a witness statement which will usually have to include proof that you're the owner of the land. You may have to get these from the Land Registry - but your solicitor should be able to advise you on exactly what information you'll need.
Once you have submitted the claim forms, the Court will then fix a date for the hearing. The unauthorised occupants will then need to be served with official court papers. Your solicitor will arrange this for you. If there are safety concerns, your solicitor can contact the police who will accompany them when the documents are served.
If the unauthorised occupants are named then they must be served personally. If the defendants are unknown then the notice will have to be attached to the main door or some other part of the land so that it is clearly visible.
If you can, it is worth sealing the papers in a see-through plastic wallet. This will mean that it's still visible - and it will protect the documents from bad weather.
The unauthorised occupants must be served with these documents:
- No less than 2 days before the hearing date (if it is on other land)
Once the court hearing has taken place and an order for the trespassers to leave has been made - hopefully they will voluntarily leave the land.
If they do not, your solicitor will have to get a warrant or 'writ of possession' (but they may well apply for this at the same time as the original order to save time later). Your solicitor will then need to ask the County Court Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer to enforce.
Where there are a large number of trespassers and police help might be needed, then your solicitor will need to contact the County Court Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer before the initial court hearing to give them advance warning that police assistance may well be needed.
What if they move on to my land at a weekend?
If the trespassers move on at a weekend or any other time when the Court is closed, then your solicitor can contact the 'urgent business officer' for this region. They should be able to help in an urgent application to a judge.
Do we really have to go through this process?
Yes. That's what the law states. However - in exceptional circumstances you may be able to get an ‘Interim Possession Order' to remove unauthorised occupants without following the above process in full.
Is it a crime?
Occupying the land without permission (simple trespassing) is not a crime at the moment; however, if the unauthorised occupants commit criminal offences such as damage, threatening behavior or assault, you should contact the police.
What the Police can do?
In some circumstances the police can order the trespassers to leave your land. If they still fail to leave, then they could be arrested. Your solicitor should be able to tell you more about this and the powers the police have Under Section 61 and 62(A) of the Criminal Justice and Police Order Act 1994
What about the council?
Councils do have some powers. You can get in touch with us to find out if there's anything we can do - but if the incursion is on private land the removal of travellers from the land lies with the landowner.
Legal & Public Health Protection
South Staffordshire Council
Telephone: 01902 696000