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Unauthorised Encampments - section 61: direction to leave land and power to arrest

Direction to leave land: If the senior Police Officer (any rank) present at the scene reasonably believes that two or more persons are trespassing on land and they are present there with the common purpose of residing there for any period, and that reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave and either:
  • that any of those persons has caused damage to the land or to property on the land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent of his, or
  • that those persons have between them six or more vehicles on the land,
he/she may direct those persons, or any of them, to leave the land, to remove any vehicles or other property they have with them on the land.

Where the senior Police Officer believes the persons were not originally trespassers but have become trespassers on the land, the officer must reasonably believe that the other conditions were satisfied after those persons became trespassers before he/she can direct them to leave.

Communications: a direction to leave may be communicated by any Constable at the scene. Although the Act does not specify it for Section 61, Section 63 states that persons shall be treated as having had a direction communicated to them if reasonable steps have been taken to bring it to their attention. The same process should apply to Section 61 although this has not been tested at law. No requirement for an officer to be in uniform, the direction can be written or verbal.

Offence failing to comply with direction or returning to land: if a person knowing that such direction has been given which applies to her/him

  • fails to leave the land as soon as reasonably practicable, or
  • having left again enters the land as a trespasser within the period of three months, beginning with the day on which the direction was given
he/she commits an offence.

Penalty: summary offence, maximum penalty three months imprisonment and/or a fine.

Power: a Constable in uniform who reasonably suspects that a person is committing an offence under this Section may arrest him/her without a warrant.

Defence: that he/she was not trespassing on that land, or that he/she had reasonable excuse for failing to leave the land as soon as reasonably practicable, or as the case may be, for again entering the land as a trespasser.