Make trespassing a criminal offence to stop travellers moving onto private land, demand backbenchers

Paul Gregory, 42, a Long Ditton resident who lives opposite the park, agrees with the proposals to criminalise trespass.

He said: “It would mean the police could actually do something about it and confront the issue straight away, rather than the long-winded civil process. 

“There are double-standards to the way travellers are treated and what they are able to get away with, compared to ordinary citizens. A friend of mine recently got fined £80 for dropping some litter on the ground in that park, but travellers can come and do what they like without facing the consequences.”

Some 59 Tory MPs – nearly a third of the backbench Conservative party – have signed the letter include former Cabinet ministers John Whittingdale, Sir Michael Fallon and Priti Patel and submitted it to a Government consultation on travellers.

The MPs said the new criminal power “would provide a timely method of dealing with unauthorised encampments on private or public land, in contrast to the current powers which are either very limited in scope or require often time consuming recourse to the courts”.

The group of MPs met with James Brokenshire, the Housing secretary, days before Parliament broke up for its summer recess last month.

The proposal to criminalise trespass was first mooted by the Tories in the party’s 2010 general election manifesto.

The MPs’ call has also been backed by Alok Sharma, a senior Work and Pensions minister and a Housing minister until January this year, in his capacity as a MP for Reading West.

Earlier this he launched a petition on tackling illegal encampments calling for a change in the law to make trespass a criminal offence.

The petition said that “the residents of Berkshire have suffered an intolerable imposition from an increasing number of unauthorised encampments. 

“The Petitioners therefore urge the Government to introduce legislation to make trespass a criminal offence. 

“This will strengthen the powers used by the police to deal with illegal encampments, in addition to those already available under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.”

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