Monday 22 January 2018

Irish travellers lose eviction battle from British site

Residents of Dale Farm - the UK's largest illegal travellers' site - the McCarthy sisters (left to right) Margaret, Maria, Nora and Kathleen at The Royal Courts of Justice, in central London, where they have lost their High Court battle against eviction. Photo: Getty Images
A supporter of Dale Farm travellers plays a tune outside The High Court. Photo: Getty Images
The McCarthy sisters (left - right) Kathleen, Maria, Nora (back) and Margaret arriving at The Royal Courts of Justice. Photo: PA

John Ashton and Brian Farmer

RESIDENTS of Dale Farm, the UK's largest illegal travellers' site, have lost their High Court battle against eviction.

They attempted to block their removal from the controversial site near Basildon, Essex, in three linked applications for judicial review.

However today Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, ruled they had delayed too long in challenging Basildon Council's decision to take direct action against them.

The judge said: "It is the residents of Dale Farm who have to comply with the obligation to leave voluntarily.

"If the removal becomes forcible it would be because of decisions made by the residents not to comply."

Mr Justice Ouseley said,: "The conclusion has been reached time and again that this is just the wrong site for travellers."

The planning system had always included a "fair consideration" of "personal circumstances".

He added: "The Dale Farm residents have had that, but they have lost."

The judge said: "The criminal law applies equally to all - travellers and others alike."

Traveller lawyers had argued that Basildon Council's decision earlier this year to take direct action to clear the green belt site of 400 residents, including about 100 children, was "disproportionate" and must at least be reconsidered.

The council was accused of failing to take account of vulnerable residents, including the sick in need of regular medication and children whose schooling would be disrupted if families were evicted.

Council chiefs have fought a 10-year battle to clear the site. Their lawyers told Mr Justice Ouseley they had throughout acted lawfully and reasonably and complied with their statutory duty.

Bailiffs have been given permission by another High Court judge to clear 49 of the 54 plots if today's legal challenge fails.

Further delay might be caused if the travellers decide to try to appeal if they lose.

On the last day of the hearing of the judicial review application, Mr Justice Ouseley was told the council had agreed that some families could not be evicted by direct action.

Richard Harwood, representing site resident Margaret McCarthy, had argued the council's original aim in taking direct action - to restore the whole site to a cleared, open state - was impossible to achieve.

He said the council was legally obliged to reconsider the benefits of continuing the action and weigh them against the effect on individual travellers.

Reuben Taylor, for the council, argued the direct action decision remained lawful and indicated some other form of action still might be taken against those who remained on the site.

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