The law of trespass is largely one of common law, with the courts developing the law and resolving disputes based on the circumstances of the case. Following the ‘Powers for Dealing with Unauthorised Development and Encampments’ consultation in 2018, it was clear that action is needed to address the sense of unease and intimidation residents feel when an unauthorised encampment occurs.
As a result, the Government is consulting measures to criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an unauthorised encampment in England and Wales. Ministers are also consulting on other measures to strengthen police powers in order to tackle unauthorised encampments.
The consultation sets out a number of options for consideration, including trespass legislation such as that which has existed in the Republic of Ireland since 2002. This legislation provides for an offence where the trespasser is likely to substantially damage the land or interfere with it; the police may direct trespassers to leave and failure to comply with that direction is an offence. Trespass is also a criminal offence in Scotland.
I would like to assure you that the measures under consideration would not affect ramblers, the right to roam or rights of way. Instead, measures could be applied in specific circumstances relating to trespass with intent to reside.
The consultation survey has now closed and the Government is currently analysing feedback where a response will be issued in due course.