Posted on July 29, 2011

Eviction of Travellers from Britain’s Biggest Gypsy Camp Delayed While Bailiffs Undergo ‘Cultural Awareness Training’

Andrew Levy, Daily Mail (London), July 26, 2011

A multi-million-pound eviction of travellers from Europe’s largest illegal camp could be delayed because bailiffs supposedly need ‘cultural awareness training’.

Hundreds of people are set to be removed from Dale Farm near Crays Hill in Essex next month, after years of legal battles.

But Basildon Council has started approaching travellers’ groups for bespoke training, ‘specifically for the forced removal of gipsy and traveller women and children’.

Officials are looking for guidance as they fear the process, which is likely to spark violent confrontations, could breach equality legislation. However, one organisation has already refused the request and warns others would follow its lead.

Share, which promotes traveller health and welfare, revealed it had been approached by the council to train staff at Constant and Co, the firm of bailiffs appointed to deal with the situation.

Chairman Tommy Mordacai said: ‘I just can’t believe they would contact us and ask about forcibly removing women and children.’

And in a formal response to the council, he wrote: ‘As you are from the inclusion and diversity team I would expect you to be able to understand and appreciate the serious long-term damage and health implications that the removal will have upon the women, children, and men.’

The stand-off means the operation, which is set to cost up to £18million, including police and bailiffs’ fees, plus returning the land to its former greenbelt status, faces being put on hold.

Travellers have lived on legal plots at Dale Farm for decades but hundreds began arriving in 2001 and set up home there without planning permission.

Around 1,000 are based there now, almost half illegally.

Many marched through nearby Gloucester Park to protest at the town hall over the eviction threat.

They are due to be removed on August 31 after a Court of Appeal ruling last year. But many have spoken openly of having pitched battles with the authorities.

Barbed wire barricades and dangerous high-pressure canisters have been placed around the site in readiness for what some describe as a ‘state of war’.

But local resident Len Gridley, whose land is bordered by the travellers’ site, complained: ‘What training could the bailiffs possibly need? They do this job every day.’ Constant & Co, which regularly handles traveller evictions, yesterday refused to comment.

But its website boasts that staff are ’employed nationally on a daily basis to recover possession of land from unwanted trespassers’.

It adds: ‘We are the most experienced, professional and busiest company in this type of work.’

A council spokesman said: ‘Share was just one organisation which has refused.

‘The funding has only just been finalised so this could not be arranged earlier.

‘We are confident that there will be an organisation which will provide the training.’

However, Richard Sheridan, president of the Gypsy Council, said: ‘I won’t be helping them with it.

‘Those bailiffs will be throwing women and children out from their homes. No amount of training can make them do that in a nicer way.’