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Throughout the UK, the police and local authorities have powers to deal with unauthorised encampments. The detailed powers vary to some extent from country to country.

Responsibility for planning for the provision of sufficient Gypsy and Traveller sites in England lies with local authorities. Local authority powers to enforce planning law and police powers are set out in the Government guidance, Dealing with illegal and unauthorised encampments (March 2015). This emphasises in the introduction that authorities should not “gold‑plate” equalities and human rights legislation, and should be considering the harm that unauthorised encampments can cause communities.

Local authority powers to enforce planning law and policy in Scotland are set out in the Scottish Government’s Guidance for Local Authorities on Managing Unauthorised Camping by Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland, April 2017 and in Planning Circular 10/2009: Planning Enforcement. A number of powers are available to a local authority, depending on the exact activity taking place. 

The main police powers to deal with unauthorised campers extend to England, Scotland and Wales, although there are slight differences to reflect Scottish laws on access to land. They include powers to direct unauthorised campers to leave land, and to seize vehicles in certain circumstances.

Trespass is a criminal offence in Scotland and in the Republic of Ireland. Generally speaking, trespass to land is not itself a criminal offence in England and Wales unless some special statutory provision makes it so. Any damage done by a trespasser while trespassing may amout to the offence of criminal damage.

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