Unauthorised Encampments Explained

What is an unauthorised encampment?

An unauthorised encampment could be many things, including people in tents or people in caravans. However, if people have entered land without the landowner’s permission, it is unauthorised and is a civil trespass.

Living a nomadic lifestyle is perfectly lawful and in most cases there should be no need for the police to become involved in what is in essence a civil trespass. This would instead be a matter for the local authority.

This issue of unauthorised encampments has for a long time been associated with members of our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, but there are other forms of encampment. It could be a protest encampment, or could be homeless people.

Police officers can assess the impact of an unauthorised encampment, however, there should be no expectation of police involvement simply because it is there.

What happens when an unauthorised encampment occurs?

Initially responsibility for any encampment rests with the landowner because this would be a civil trespass. However, we as the police will attend and make an assessment as to the impact the encampment is having on both the landowner, the settled community and will then assess whether criteria for the limited powers we have might be met.

When should I call the police?

If you have concerns about an unauthorised encampment you can call the police to make us aware of the presence of an encampment. However, people need to be aware that there may not be a role for the police there.

This video explains the powers available for police to use in relation to unauthorised encampments and covers the following questions:

  • What is Section 61?
  • What is Section 62?
  • Why can’t you move people on for trespassing?

For more information, please read the Thames Valley Police policy on Unauthorised Encampments.