Travellers’ caravans may be seized by police in law and order blitz

Travellers’ caravans may be seized by police in law and order blitz to clamp down on families who occupy land and set up home without permission

  • It is set to become a criminal offence to set up home on land without permission
  • More than 1,000 traveller caravans parked on unauthorised sites across Britain   
  • Police Powers and Protections Bill among proposed changes in Queen’s Speech

Police will be given the power to arrest travellers and seize their caravans if they set up illegal camps.

In a law and order blitz announced yesterday, it will become a criminal offence to occupy land and try to set up home without permission.

More than 1,000 traveller caravans are on unauthorised sites in England and Wales, according to official figures earlier this year.

The Police Powers and Protections Bill, which pledges a ‘police covenant’ to protect officers, was among a string of proposed legal changes in the Queen’s Speech.

Police will be given the power to arrest travellers and seize their caravans if they set up illegal camps (Pictured: Travellers in a car park in Chingford, east London)

The Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill ‘will ensure the most serious violent offenders, including terrorists, serve longer in custody’ before they are freed on licence.

It comes less than a month after Usman Khan embarked on a killing spree armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest while attending a prisoner rehabilitation programme near London Bridge.

Khan had been released from prison on licence in December 2018, halfway through a 16-year prison sentence after he was convicted of terror offences in February 2012. 

ID documents will be needed to vote 

By Jack Doyle

Laws to require voters to show identification documents at elections were included in the Queen’s Speech.

Currently, voters simply give their name at a polling station and get a ballot paper once it has been checked.

The new rules would require voters to have a passport or a driving licence. They could also apply for a free ‘local electoral identity document’ from the council.

The proposal is designed to combat ‘personation’ fraud where individuals pretend to be someone else to vote.

Ministers are also set to tighten the rules on postal votes. Campaigners will be banned from handling them and a new power will limit the number of postal votes an individual can hand in.

Voters in Northern Ireland already have to show proof of ID before they can vote.

But critics say having to present an identity document could be a barrier to democracy and disenfranchise thousands of voters. The proposal forms part of the PM’s constitutional reform agenda which is designed to ‘safeguard’ our ‘constitution and democratic processes’.

Official documents explaining the legislative programme state: ‘We will protect the integrity of our democracy and elections, tackling electoral fraud through the introduction of voter ID and banning postal vote harvesting.

A trial of voter identification this year was declared a success by the Cabinet Office. Around 800 people were turned away when the system was trialled during local and EU elections in ten areas.

But Jess Garland, director of policy at the Electoral Reform Society said: ‘Make no mistake – these plans will leave tens of thousands of legitimate voters voiceless. Ministers should focus on combating the real threats to our democracy, rather than suppressing voters’ rights. The Government has no examples to justify this ‘show your papers’ policy. There is simply no evidence of widespread impersonation.’

He was part of an Al Qaeda-inspired terror group – linked to radical preacher Anjem Choudary – that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp on land in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir owned by his family.

In the year to the end of September, there were 44 convictions for terrorism offences, with 17 offenders being sent to jail for between four and ten years, the Government said.

Five were jailed for a decade or more and one was handed a life sentence.

Around 245 convicted terrorists were freed from jail between 2012 and 2019.

In a bid to give the public ‘greater confidence’ that sentences served by terrorists reflect the severity of their crimes and the ‘risk they prevent’, the Bill would see the ‘worst terrorist offenders’ serve a minimum of 14 years behind bars.

Early release would be scrapped for those offenders classed as dangerous and handed extended sentences – in which criminals have to spend longer on licence after leaving prison.

The plan includes a bid to strengthen supervision while a terrorist is on licence.

Terrorists assessed not to be a risk would have to serve two thirds of their sentence before the Parole Board could consider them for release. The legal changes include a Sentencing Bill to abolish the automatic halfway release for the most serious offenders who currently receive standard fixed-term sentences. These include offenders jailed for rape, manslaughter and grievous bodily harm.

A Serious Violence Bill will make public bodies duty bound to work together to ‘identify and tackle early factors’ that lead to crime and give police powers to easily stop and search ‘habitual knife carriers’.

The Queen’s Speech sees the return of Helen’s Law – the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims Bill).

Named after 22-year-old Helen McCourt who was murdered in 1988 by Ian Simms, the Bill seeks to deny killers parole if they refuse to reveal where they hid their victim’s body.

The Government will also bring back the Domestic Abuse Bill which fell as a result of Mr Johnson’s unlawful suspension of Parliament earlier this year.