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Norfolk police have to be aware that Travellers and Gypsies have rights too, just like the settled c

Norfolk police have to be aware that Travellers and Gypsies have rights too, just like the settled community, says chief constable Simon Bailey. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Norfolk chief constable Simon Bailey on why police have to balance the needs of settled and Travelling communities.

As we head into what we hope are the glorious summer months, residents and businesses across Norfolk are getting ready to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors to our county.

However, not all of our visitors receive a warm welcome. Gypsy and Traveller groups are one such community who regularly generate strong emotions, particularly around rubbish being left when they leave a legal or illegal site.

While I recognise illegal encampments within your communities causes concern, we then must appreciate the fact that members of the Travelling community have rights too, such as access to a private and family life and education for their children.

With a chronic national shortage of authorised Traveller sites, which is not the responsibility of the police service, the vast majority of people are opting to live on unauthorised land despite the issues this causes for all involved.

To meet this challenge different organisations and local authority partners are required to work with the Travelling community. This includes the management of legal sites and the owners and land owners where illegal incursions take place, as the initial trespass is a civil, not criminal matter.

To ensure we all work together to find an acceptable, fair resolution, Norfolk Constabulary has a joint protocol with all our local authority partners and other relevant agencies. This protocol gives equal consideration to the rights of the settled and Travelling communities, looking at a balanced consideration of all encampments on their own merits.

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It looks at what enforcement action can be taken while taking into account the availability of alternative sites, and provides temporary solutions where possible and the ability to take robust action when necessary. It is important, however, that we remain proportionate when considering all the options available to us and the communities involved.

We know that only a small element of the Travelling community is connected to criminality and we will be ready this year to deal with those individuals appropriately.

As an organisation, we have learnt from the incidents last summer in Cromer, and an action plan has been created to ensure key recommendations are progressed and implemented should further encampments of that nature occur. These include working better with partners to understand roles and responsibilities and ensuring we share information more effectively within our own organisation and elsewhere.

I hope that the work already undertaken by my officers and staff provides an element of reassurance to those concerned. I can also reassure you we will continue to work with all members of our communities to ensure our county remains an appealing tourist destination and a wonderful place to live.