Police do have the power to remove travellers or anyone else who puts up camp on private land, as was the case of travellers’ caravans that invaded the playing field at Marlborough College.
Inquiries by Marlborough News Online have revealed that Wiltshire officers used Section 61 of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act when negotiating with the travellers.
“This gives the police powers to evict people from unauthorised encampments,” explained a police spokesman.
“We received a 999 call shortly before 17.00hrs on August 16th to reports of a number of caravans making their way to Marlborough. We were later informed they had converged on a private field belonging to Marlborough College.”
“We were also contacted by the college. Officers spoke to the travellers who stated it was their intention to move on Sunday. Wiltshire Police did not need to issue a Section 61 notice as the travellers left the site on Sunday morning.”
He added: “Wiltshire Police escorted the convoy when they left until they reached the Hants border — north of Fordingbridge. There is nothing on the logs to indicate whether or not we informed any other police forces.”
Marlborough police had earlier intimated that they could not act against the travellers because they were on private land.
Subsequently, police received a call at 23.20 on August 18 to a report that two vehicles and a caravan were stationed at the green on Marlborough Common, which is public property under the jurisdiction of Marlborough Town Council.
The same spokesman said: “Officers arrived at the scene at 23.43hrs and were told that the travellers would be leaving in the morning along with those at Marlborough College.”
Officers returned at 10.30am on August 19 and the three vehicles had left the common.”
Marlborough town councillor Val Compton, who made the original call to Marlborough Police concerning travellers on the Common, said: “I’m quite surprised that Wiltshire Police do not appear to know what powers they have, nor what time they received calls, or even when their officers attended.”
“As I attended the Common on Saturday 18th myself in the early evening – when the sun was still shining, a party in full swing at the Rugby Club and two officers on duty at the gate opposite….it’s something of a worry.”
“The first phone call I received for assistance was afternoon, probably before 5pm. And I am quite sure my subsequent call was logged to the police via the 101 number shortly after – even if they were very unsure where Marlborough Common actually was.”
“I am not filled with confidence – we need the police to give us clear indications of what we can do to help ourselves and what they can do to assist us.”