Court upholds ‘enshrined freedom’ of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller right to roam

In a rare moment of legal good fortune, the Court of Appeal today ruled that Gypsies, Roma and Travellers have an “enshrined freedom” to move from one place to another, and that an injunction to prevent camping on public land would breach the rights of the communities it targeted.

Bromley Council had sought what it described as a “de facto borough-wide injunction” to prevent people from occupying or camping on parks and car parks. This application was originally denied by the High Court, who would only grant the council a very limited injunction preventing people from fly-tipping, depositing substantial amounts of waste, or entering parks and car parks in vehicles for the purposes of waste disposal or fly-tipping.  This scaled-back order was insufficiently draconian for Bromley Council’s tastes, and they sought to have the judgement overturned by the Court of Appeal.

But, in a sad day for bigoted bureaucrats across the nation, LJs Coulson and Haddon-Cave today upheld the High Court’s earlier ruling, commenting: “It must be recognised that the cases referred to above make plain that the Gypsy and Traveller community have an enshrined freedom not to stay in one place but to move from one place to another. An injunction which prevents them from stopping at all in a defined part of the UK comprises a potential breach of both the ECHR and the Equality Act.”

This judgement has implications for other local authorities who have obtained, or are seeking, similar injunctions. Fourteen councils in and around London have already obtained orders like that sought by Bromley Council, breach of which may be punished with fines, imprisonment or the seizure of property of Gypsies and Travellers. However, as Garden Court Chambers’ Marc Willers QC and Tessa Buchanan (who represented GRT rights organisation London Gypsies and Travellers in the proceedings) pointed out back in 2019:

“The judge expressed doubt about making the injunction on the basis of s187B of The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (breach of planning control) given the existence of permitted development rights. In addition, the judge made clear her concerns about the impact of these injunctions on the ability of Gypsies and Travellers to pursue their traditional way of life, particularly given the shortage of sites.  Although many injunctions of this nature have been granted, this was the first case in which the arguments on the other side were given in full, and the application failed.”

The Court of Appeal’s ruling comes during a government consultation on proposed new police powers to criminalise trespass, a move which – as Freedom has previously reported – poses a direct threat to the traditional way of life of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, as well as the right to protest.

A guide to responding to the Home Office consultation can be found here.


Photo Credit: Anthony M. on Flickr used under CC BY 2.0