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Explained: the laws used by Boston Borough Council and Lincolnshire Police to deal with the illegal travellers camp on Tunnard Street car park

Posted Friday 25 August, 2023

Following this week's illegal encampment of travellers and the disruption caused to the town, Boston Borough Council would like to explain the legal process they, and Lincolnshire Police, had to follow when ordering travellers to leave the area.

The council recognises the amount of upset and frustration felt in the town. Many councillors and officers who work for the council also live in the town and shared that sense of frustration.

It is important to note that both the council and the police, were limited on what they can do by law and now we'd like to explain some of those constraints.


What did the council do?

It all started on Tuesday afternoon when the council was notified of the illegal encampment.

The Council reported it to the police and a crime number was created.

Accompanied by the police, officers visited the site to ask about any welfare issues and provided bin bags in the hope they would keep the area clean and tidy.

Officers spoke to the travellers and told them to leave as they did not have permission to be there.  

They ignored our request and so on Wednesday morning we had powers, under Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, to order those travellers to leave as soon as is practicably possibly but we had to allow them 24 hours to complete this. The order also banned them from returning to the same piece of land for three months.

This is the only power the Council has available by law.

If the police had not intervened, and if the travellers had not moved on following the notice being served, or they returned, the council would then have had to pursue their removal through the courts.

This can take several days, as we would have needed to get a court date and presented our case to the magistrates.


What did Lincolnshire Police do?

Thankfully, they used two separate pieces of legislation called Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act and Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

On Tuesday, they issued a Section 35 Dispersal Order for the town centre, ordering them to leave the area.

On Wednesday when the council issued its Section 77 notice, the police issued a Section 60 notice at the same time, giving them 24 hours to leave Tunnard Street car park.

On Thursday, Police issued a Section 35 Dispersal Order for the whole county of Lincolnshire and escorted them to the county border.


What happened behind the scenes and what happened after the travellers left Boston?

Well, throughout all this, Councillors, officers and police were in constant contact and had regular meetings and discussions in relation to this joint operation.  

After serving the Council's Section 77 notice and the police's Section 60 notice, the encampment started to leave at 9am on Thursday. They had until 12noon to do so.  

By 10.45am, the encampment had fully left Tunnard Street car park.

The clean-up of the car park started immediately.

The car park was clean and tidy again by 12noon and available for public use again.


And what exactly is anti-social behaviour?

Anti-social behaviour, sometimes known as ASB, is actions which cause upset, worry or make people feel scared or frightened while they go about their everyday business.

It can be anything from shouting, loud noise, making threats to breaking or damaging things in public, which are classed as crimes.


What is Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act?

Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act gives police the power to move on a person or group carrying out anti-social behaviour so that they can no longer stay in the area.

Police can also use this power if a person or group has not yet carried out anti-social behaviour but are likely to.

These orders can be made to cover town centres as well as the whole county.

The orders ban the person or group of people for up to two days.


What is Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act?

Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act is similar to the Council's Section 77 powers.

It orders those travellers who are illegally on land and causing anti-social behaviour to leave.

The order makes it a crime for living on land with a car, caravan or campervan without permission.

If after the notice is served by police and the travellers had not moved on in a good amount of time, they could have been arrested. Police also had to the powers to take away their vehicles if they failed to move on.


 Cllr Anne Dorrian, Leader of Boston Borough Council, said: "Boston has quickly returned to normal after what was a very frustrating and worrying time for many residents and businesses in our town.

"Councillors and many officers worked very quickly with the police during a very difficult 48 hours and I am happy with the swift response through partnership working to move the travellers out of our town. Having said that, both the council and the police will follow up with a 'lessons to be learned' exercise so that we leave no stone unturned."

"The Council, like the police has limited powers and strict timeframes it has to follow by law. I know many of you are feeling frustrated but like all Councils across the country, we can only do what we are allowed to within the law when dealing with illegal encampments. That is why I feel it is important to be transparent with you all on the laws we have available as our powers.

"Please be reassured that Boston is safe, the town is open for you to enjoy our shops, our leisure facilities, our many cafes, pubs, restaurants, independent businesses and our fantastic parks once more."

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