Letter: A landmark in civil rights

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From Mr John Pilgrim

Sir: Mr Justice Sedley's ruling ("Travellers' victory puts evictions in doubt", 2 September) that the Wealden travellers must be treated with common humanity and cannot be evicted by the fiat of local government under the Criminal Justice Act without respect for their family and social needs is on a par with the US school busing decisions in using law to define the legal basis of changing social justice. It was similar in importance in demonstrating that government at any level must not enforce unjust laws which create or oppress an underclass, and has wide implications for civil rights in the UK.

This reassertion of the legal structure of a civil society and the periodic need for its adaptation to changing social conditions must, however, be paralleled by administrative support such as that seen in the actions of Somerset County and District Councils which have set out the financial and planning basis for temporary and permanent sites for travellers. These include provision for private landowners, including farmers and commercial developers, to provide serviced sites in locations suitable for different categories of travellers, and extend provisions of the 1966 Act governing local government responsibilities.

John Gummer's "let them eat cake" response of offering travellers the "right" to own their own site will be meaningless without a supportive response of planning authorities and without this material provision by local government.

Yours etc,

John Pilgrim


2 September