Thursday 22 February 2018

VIDEO: Irish Travellers: more legal challenges in Dale Farm dispute

Activists shut the barricade of the main gate to the Dale Farm travellers camp on September 23. Photo: Getty Images
Dale Farm residents have a mug of tea this morning. Photo: PA
Flowers are planted in a draw at the barricade of the main gate to the Dale Farm. Photo: Getty Images
A Dale Farm resident adjusts the aerial on a television earlier today. Photo: PA

John Aston and Brian Farmer

The possibility of the long-running battle over the future of the UK's largest illegal travellers' site being settled quickly was put in doubt at the High Court today.

A judge was told more legal challenges were being launched as he considered whether to extend an injunction preventing Basildon Council in Essex from clearing the Dale Farm site.

In addition to today's legal action, it emerged that at least two applications for judicial review are planned as part of the campaign to stop the evictions of travellers.

If they go ahead, the applications could add thousands of pounds more to the already huge legal bill generated by the Dale Farm saga.

Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart, sitting at the High Court in London, granted a temporary injunction in favour of the travellers on Monday.

Today lawyers for the travellers returned to court to argue that the injunction should be extended because the enforcement notices which have led to moves to clear the site are legally flawed.

At the start of today's hearing, the judge said "planning avenues" had been exhausted and told the court that litigation could not be viewed as "yet another springboard for delay".

He said the council had spent "substantial physical and financial resources" and courts had a duty to make sure that valuable resources were not wasted.

The judge said he would not grant a "long stay of execution" to allow "minor squabbles" to be settled.

But he was told by Marc Willers, appearing for the Dale Farm residents, that - quite separate from today's hearing - the residents were applying for permission to seek a judicial review.

It is understood the application will be brought on the grounds that the whole eviction process is "disproportionate".

The judge then heard that the Dale Farm Solidarity Network, a group of protesters helping the travellers fight eviction, is about to lodge another judicial review bid.

Ellen Wiles, appearing for the network, said the group was taking its own legal action on the basis that enforcement action against the travellers was "irrational".

She asked the judge to allow the network to join today's injunction proceedings as its members were "legitimate protesters on the site".

The judge gave permission, but said the network was limited to making submissions in relation to any property it had at Dale Farm.

Ms Wiles said this included a tent and scaffolding "erected for the purposes of monitoring and observation".

Among Dale Farm residents in court today was Nora Sheridan.

She said before the start of the hearing: "We're just keeping our fingers crossed - praying for a good result. We don't know what's going to happen."

The judge made clear he will not be giving judgment on the injunction application today.

Five sisters who live at Dale Farm donned identical short-sleeved blouses to show "solidarity" at today's hearing.

The McCarthy sisters - Joanna, 38, Tina, 40, Margaret, 46, Kathleen, 50, and Marie, 55 - wore blue and pink floral-patterned tops as they sat in the front row of Court 4.

Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart congratulated the "ladies for their lovely turnout" and added: "It is very nice to see somebody brightening up the court."

The hearing continues.

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