The UK Court of Appeal handed down a very significant judgment, dismissing an appeal by Bromley Council against the High Court’s decision to refuse the Council’s application for an injunction against “persons unknown” stopping on public land in the Borough. It was accepted that the “persons unknown” category indicated individuals from the Romany Gypsy and Traveller communities.
Prior to the ruling, a series of local authorities applied for injunctions which prevented the Romany and Traveller community from setting up unauthorised encampments in their boroughs. The total number of injunctions granted was thirty-eight.
The organisation, London Gypsies and Travellers, intervened in the proceedings before the High Court and Court of Appeal with legal representation, substantially pro bono, from Marc Willers QC, Tessa Buchanan of Garden Court Chambers and Chris Johnson from the Community Law Partnership. This was the first case where individuals from these communities were represented in court. Moreover, it was the first case where an injunction of this sort had been considered by the Court of Appeal.
Lord Justice Coulson, although not completely limiting the power of local authorities to request injunctions, set out a list of guidelines for the authorities to follow in the future when met with similar situations.
He stressed that the authorities should remind themselves that the Romany and Traveller community are vulnerable minorities who have been present in Britain for centuries. The shortage of gypsy and Traveller transit sites throughout the UK is a real problem which has only led to increased tension between this community and the law.
Local authorities that apply for similar injunctions in the future would be required to demonstrate an understanding and respect for gypsy and Traveller culture, traditions and practices. Welfare assessments, especially of children, would constitute good practice.
Click here for the full judgement.