Travellers 'in breach' of the law

If the High Court allowed residents of the UK's largest illegal travellers' site to escape eviction it would "send out the wrong signal" to the nation, a judge was told today.

A victory for the travellers of Dale Farm, near Basildon, Essex, "would strike to the very principles of the rule of law", said a barrister representing Basildon Council.



The council has been battling for a decade to remove the travellers, who now number some 400 individuals on more than 50 pitches, from the green belt site.



The costly tangle of litigation already generated has been condemned by critics as a "farce".



Today the residents launched a fresh, three-pronged attack on moves to evict them.



They came to the High Court in London today with a battery of legal arguments contained in three separate applications for judicial review to stop the clearance of Dale Farm.



But Reuben Taylor, appearing for the council, said the authority had done all it could to comply with planning and human rights laws and its decision to take direct action was not unlawful, unreasonable or disproportionate.



He told Mr Justice Ouseley: "At its heart these proceedings seek an order from the court that would enable the residents to stay at Dale Farm in breach of the criminal law."



The court was in effect being asked to sanction criminal conduct by granting planning permission for the residents.



He said: "It is not the court's role to sanction criminal conduct - rather it is the court's role to uphold the law.



"There are many in housing need in this country - many who cannot afford their own home, but who would like one.



"If the court were to grant the relief sought it would send a signal to all in this country that they can move on to the green fields of this land and build their home in the knowledge that whatever steps the local planning authority may take, the courts will prevent enforcement.



"The court should be slow indeed to take a decision with such consequences, and slow indeed before it allows a claim that strikes to the very principles of the rule of law."













The Court of Appeal ruled against Dale Farm travellers in 2009 after they sought a judicial review claiming their human rights had been breached.



The clearance of the site was finally due to begin last week after legal proceedings were apparently exhausted.



But a new High Court injunction prevented bailiffs moving in while the courts grappled with today's fresh legal arguments.



They involve human rights and planning law and claims that the sick and elderly and children on the site will unfairly suffer if the evictions go ahead.



According to a YouGov poll, two-thirds of the British public support the council's actions.



Mr Taylor said the council had already spent considerable public resources in the preparations needed to remove the residents from the six-acre site.



Council officials estimated the cost to the public purse at £400,000, but that did not include police costs and further costs of the council's contractors.



He said: "The delay in bringing the claim is obviously highly prejudicial to good administration."



The total cost to the taxpayer of the site clearance has been estimated at around £18 million.



The first judicial review application was brought today by Irish traveller Mary Sheridan.



Her counsel, Marc Willers, said the case had an "extensive history" but Ms Sheridan was not claiming she should be allowed to stay at Dale Farm "forever - or indeed for many years, or even a year".



Mr Willers said: "This claim is brought on this basis: there is no alternative, suitable accommodation at this point in time, and it would be disproportionate to be forced to leave in the absence of such accommodation."



Outside court, council leader Tony Ball said the wheels of justice were "grinding slowly" but "going forward" and he expected the site to be cleared.



He said: "We will be back in court tomorrow afternoon and again on Monday and the judge has indicated there will be a judgment by Tuesday at the earliest.



"As I have said before, it has taken 10 years so far, and we now know the vast majority of British people support us, and we can wait a few more days for justice to be done."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick