Plans to evict travellers on hold as judge delays decision until Monday

 

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The Independent Online

Plans to evict about 200 travellers from their homes in Essex were frustrated again yesterday, after a High Court judge delayed his decision on whether to allow bailiffs in until Monday.

The court was also told that two applications to bring separate judicial reviews are planned by residents of Dale Farm and their supporters, which if accepted could cause the 10-year battle to be dragged out still further. The operation has already cost £18m.

A final decision had been expected following Monday's last-minute reprieve, granted as bailiffs gathered outside the gates of the UK's biggest traveller site.

In the High Court yesterday, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart said that the hearings could not be "used as yet another springboard for delay" but added that an immediate decision was impossible.

One Dale Farm resident, Mary Slattery, welcomed the delay but said the community was looking for a permanent solution to the issue.

"Every day is a bonus and this delay is costing the council millions – hopefully people will wake up to what a waste of time and money this whole thing is," she said.

Another traveller, Nora Sheridan, said the community was "just keeping our fingers crossed, praying for a good result".

Inside the courtroom, Dale Farm residents sitting in the public gallery offered prayers as they heard the judge acknowledge that, while it is clear they have been "deemed unlawful occupants for some time, that does not mean that they are not entitled to be treated with dignity".

This week's temporary injunction was put in place over fears that the evictions of 86 families "may go further" than is allowed by law.

He ruled out any suggestion of challenging the evictions themselves, but legal arguments continue over what materials and property can be removed from the site, should bailiffs be given permission to move in next week. He said the council had spent "substantial physical and financial resources" and the courts had a duty to make sure that resources were not wasted.

Five sisters who live at at the site wore identical flowery blouses to show "solidarity". The McCarthy sisters – Joanna, 38, Tina, 40, Margaret, 46, Kathleen, 50, and Marie, 55 were congratulated by the judge for their "lovely turnout".

Tony Ball, the leader of Basildon Council said he was "somewhat disappointed" with the adjournment. But he said he accepted that the judge needed more time to consider the details.

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