'We witnessed a car mount the pavement and drive onto the pitch': MP adds to calls for tough action on Northampton traveller camps

Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer says he was angered by the 'bullying and intimidation' shown by a recent travellers' camp in Far Cotton.
Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer says he was angered by the 'bullying and intimidation' shown by a recent travellers' camp in Far Cotton.

A Northampton MP, who says he saw a car from a traveller camp drive straight through a football match in Northampton, has urged the authorities to step in.

Northampton South MP, Andrew Lewer also says he has been angered at tales of "bullying and intimidating behaviour" from residents in Northampton about the occupants of the illegal encampment in Far Cotton.

Mr Lewer visited the camp on Far Cotton Recreation ground with the with the local residents' association recently to see "the disruption and damage being caused".

He said: "Within five minutes we witnessed a car mount the pavement and drive onto the pitch straight through a pair of local teenagers trying to have a kick around, narrowly missing them.

"Residents recounted further stories of bullying and threatening behaviours toward local footballers and a church group who use the Rec building for their Sunday service.”

He went on to say: “There is real anger and dismay from local community members who feel there has been lack of a proper response by the police and borough council and they were very clear that they need to get a grip.”

“We should not be seen in Northampton as a soft touch by illegal encampers (sic). It is the job of the police and local authority to defend our communities against such behaviour and take strong action to deter any future encampments.

"We cannot have a re-run of the antics of last year and I will be raising this with the new chief constable at my first meeting with him and also with the police and crime commissioner and Council leaders.

"The powers to tackle this already exist and they need to be used."

Superintendent Emily Vernon, head of local policing at Northamptonshire Police, said: “Northamptonshire Police recognises the impact that unauthorised encampments have upon the community and we continue to work with local authorities and community representatives in addressing ongoing concerns regarding unauthorised encampments.

“The responsibility and legal powers for dealing with unlawful encampments rests with a number of agencies, led by the Countywide Traveller Unit, or the landowner.

“The Police also have powers to remove unauthorised encampments but these powers only apply in certain circumstances:."

• Under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act the police have powers to move unlawful encampments from the land. Specific criteria and aggravating factors need to be present for this power to be applied. The legislation does not cover other travellers who may enter that land, or other land in the area and there is no police power to prevent movement onto other land in the Northamptonshire area.

• Under Section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act the police have powers to direct unlawful encampments to designated council sites. However, as there is no provision within the Northamptonshire area for these sites, this power is not available to us.

Supt Vernon continued: “We are doing all we can to address the very legitimate concerns of our communities with regards to unauthorised encampments, however we can only operate within the guidelines set out in law. I have reviewed our use of powers as Head of Local Policing as a result of local feedback and I am satisfied that police actions have been appropriate to the circumstances in each case and we continue to review and learn from every case on an ongoing basis.”

"All crimes reported to us will be investigated thoroughly and anyone who is a victim of a crime or witnesses a crime is encouraged to report it to Northamptonshire Police on 101 or an emergency, 999. Crimes can also be reported to us online via www.northants.police.uk/reportonline or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111."