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Home > Areas of law > Romani Gypsy and Traveller rights

Romani Gypsy and Traveller rights

Garden Court Chambers has an experienced and dedicated team of experts covering all aspects of the law relating to Romani Gypsy and Traveller rights. We probably field the largest team of barristers in this area of law in the UK.

Photo credit: Friends, Families and Travellers

What the Directories say

Stephen Cottle is “A leading expert in Romani Gypsy and Traveller rights cases.”
The Legal 500 2015

“Marc Willers QC … has long been recognised as an expert on planning issues for the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities.” “He’s the first point of call for any Gypsy or Traveller planning matters – he’s extremely knowledgeable and an exceptional advocate.” “Marc Willers is superb at dealing with Traveller families; he has a breadth of knowledge and understands minutely the cultural issues that face this client group.”
Chambers UK 2015

“Stephen Cottle tackles a range of social housing matters but is particularly highlighted for his work challenging the eviction of Travellers.”
Chambers UK 2015 

Garden Court Chambers has an experienced and dedicated team of experts covering all aspects of the law relating to Romani Gypsy and Traveller rights. We probably field the largest team of barristers in this area of law in the UK. Our team offers advice and representation in all areas of the law relating to Romani Gypsies and Travellers including:

  • Planning inquiries and hearings following the refusal of planning permission or the service of enforcement notices
  • Statutory challenges and appeals to the High Court under sections 288 and 289 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
  • Criminal planning enforcement proceedings in both the Magistrates’ and Crown Court
  • Proceedings relating to removal directions issued under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  • Possession proceedings
  • Both injunction and committal proceedings relating to the breach of planning control
  • Judicial review proceedings relating to the enforcement of planning control and the eviction of Romani Gypsies and Travellers from land by other means
  • Other cases concerning the provision of caravan sites, housing, health and education and services to members of the Romani Gypsy and Traveller community
  • Cases relating to discrimination faced by Romani Gypsies and Travellers

Some of our cases from the higher courts

Our barristers have appeared in many of the leading cases in this area including:

R (J) v Worcestershire CC & EHRC [2013] EWHC 3845 (Admin)
The High Court gave an important judgment in a judicial review case which will help ensure that disabled Gypsy and Traveller children who rely on the provision of care by their local authority will continue to receive that care when their families travel to other parts of the Country. Jan Luba QC represented the EHRC. See the blog post on this case here.

Moore v SSCLG [2013] EWCA Civ 1194
A case in which the court had to consider whether an inspector was required to make a finding in relation to whether a Romani Gypsy would have somewhere else to move to if refused planning permission for the residential use of land and whether the refusal of a temporary permission in the Green Belt in the circumstances of the case was irrational. The Court of Appeal said it was.

Knowles v Department for Work and Pensions [2013] EWHC 19 (Admin)
A judicial review challenge in which it was argued that the housing benefit regulations relating to the provision of housing benefit to those Gypsies and Travellers living on private sites were discriminatory and incompatible with Article 14 of the Convention.

Stevens v SSCLG and Guildford BC [2013] EWHC 792 (Admin)
An unsuccessful challenge brought in respect of a planning inspector’s decision to refuse temporary planning permission for a Gypsy site. The claimant argued that the Inspector had failed to take account of the best interests of the children in accordance with the principles laid down by Baroness Hale in the Supreme Court decision in ZH (Tanzania) v SSHD [2011] UKSC 4. The Judge accepted that the principles were relevant but concluded that on the facts the inspector had complied with those principles.

Stokes v UK [2013] (Application No 65819/10)
The Applicant claimed that her rights protected by Articles 6 and 8 of the Convention had been violated in circumstances where she had not been provided with full reasons for the decision taken to evict her from a local authority run site. The parties reached a friendly settlement and the UK agreed to pay the applicant the sum of 2000 euros.

Medhurst v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2011] EWHC 3576 (Admin)
In this case a Romani Gypsy unsuccessfully argued that the meaning of ‘Gypsies and Travellers’ within Circular 1/2006 (now replaced by Planning Policy for Traveller Sites) was incompatible with Article 8 of the Convention. The judgment is available here: Medhurst v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2011] EWHC 3576 (Admin)

R (Mary Michelle Sheridan and Others) v Basildon BC [2011] EWHC 2938 (Admin)
The Irish Traveller residents of Dale Farm were unsuccessful in their judicial review challenge against the local authority’s decision to take direct action to evict them from their plots on the site. The case was heard at first instance by Ouseley J. Lord Justice Sullivan who refused a renewed application for permission made to the Court of Appeal.

Patrick Egan v Basildon Borough Council [2011] EWHC 2416 (QB)
The residents of Dale Farm obtained an injunction which restrained the local authority from exceeding the scope of extant enforcement notices and its powers to take direct action to secure compliance with the notices.

Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs v Meier and others [2009] UKSC 11
This was a case concerning a claim for a wide possession order and a supporting injunction brought against New Travellers encamped on woodland managed by the Forestry Commission. The Supreme Court held that an injunction which restrained the Travellers from camping on the land they occupied and other parcels of land in the area could stand but that a wide possession order which covered land which it owned but was not subject to unauthorised occupation at the time when the order was made, should be discharged. In so doing, the Supreme Court also overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision in this case and its decision in the earlier case of Drury v Secretary of State for the Environment [2004] EWCA Civ 200.

Rafferty v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2009] EWCA Civ 809
In this case the Court of Appeal concluded that Article 8 is a relevant consideration when decision makers considered whether to grant a Romani Gypsy family planning permission whether or not the family was occupying the land for which permission is being sought at the time the decision is made.

O’Brien v South Cambridgeshire DC [2008] EWCA Civ 1159
In this case the Court of Appeal made it clear that local planning authorities must consider for themselves the equality implications of enforcing planning control.

Baker v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2008] EWCA Civ 141
The Court of Appeal established that race equality (now public sector equality) issues are a material consideration in planning decisions whether at first instance or on appeal.

South Cambridgeshire DC v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Julie Brown [2008] EWCA Civ 1010
A local authority’s application to quash a planning inspector’s decision to grant a Romani Gypsy family planning permission was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

South Cambridgeshire DC v Harry Price and Others [2008] EWHC 1234 Admin
A local authority’s application for a planning injunction was dismissed on grounds it would violate the Article 8 rights of the defendant Romani Gypsy families.

R (McCarthy and Others) v Basildon DC and the Equality and Human Rights Commission [2008] EWHC 987
A judicial review challenge to a decision to take direct action to evict a large encampment of Irish Travellers. The decision was quashed.

R (Lisa Smith) v London Development Agency and SSTI [2007] EWHC 1013 (Admin)
A statutory challenge to the Compulsory Purchase Order of land used as a Romani Gypsy site for the purposes of the Olympics. The challenge was dismissed.

Leeds City Council v Price [2006] UKHL 10
The House of Lords concluded that the eviction of Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers from public land did not breach their human rights. It held that in a case where there was an inconsistency between a judgment of the House of Lords and a judgment of the ECtHR, domestic courts were bound to follow the House of Lords’ decision.

Smith v First Secretary of State and Mid Beds DC [2006] JPL 386
A case where the Court of Appeal quashed a planning inspector’s decision to refuse a Romani Gypsy family planning permission because he had wrongly taken into account the local residents’ ‘fear of crime’ when there was no evidential basis for the existence of such a fear.

Codona v Mid-Bedfordshire DC [2005] HLR 1
A homelessness case where the Court of Appeal upheld the offer of bricks and mortar accommodation as temporary housing to a Romani Gypsy when there were no sites available.

First Secretary of State, Grant Doe and Others v Chichester DC [2004] EWCA Civ 1248
A case in which the Court of Appeal upheld a planning inspector’s decision to grant Romani Gypsies planning permission and his conclusion that to refuse them permission would breach their human rights.

South Bucks DC v Porter (No.2) [2004] 1 WLR 1953
This was the second House of Lords case concerning the Porter family. Their Lordships upheld the decision to grant the family planning permission and gave guidance to planning inspectors on the extent to which they needed to give reasons for their decisions.

R (Margaret Price) v Carmarthenshire CC [2003] EWHC 42 Admin
The court quashed a decision to evict an Irish Traveller from her land. She had made a homelessness application and the council had failed to consider whether she had a cultural aversion to bricks and mortar and, if so, whether there was any other suitable accommodation.

South Bucks DC v Porter (No.1) [2003] 2 AC 558
It was decided by the House of Lords that a court determining an application for an injunction to stop Romani Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans on their land, without planning permission, should take account of a variety of considerations, including the personal circumstances and human rights of the defendants.

Clarke v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and Regions [2002] JPL 552
In this case the Court of Appeal held that when a Romani Gypsy sought planning permission for a caravan site and had a cultural aversion to bricks and mortar, it could breach his human rights to take account of an offer of conventional housing that had been made to him.

Coster v United Kingdom [2001] 33 EHRR 20
One of four Gypsy cases that were heard together with the lead case of Chapman v UK. The ECtHR decided that planning enforcement action did not breach the human rights of the Romani Gypsy families concerned, but that the State had a positive obligation to facilitate the Gypsy way of life.

R v Lincolnshire CC ex parte Atkinson (1995) 8 Admin LR 529
A case concerning the need for local authorities to take account of considerations of common humanity and to carry out welfare enquiries before deciding whether to evict Romani Gypsies and Travellers from their land.

Seminars, Publications and Training

Members of the team regularly speak at conferences on Romani Gypsy and Traveller law and provide training on the various aspects of the subject in both the United Kingdom and Europe. Three of our members are co-authors of the main textbook on the subject, Gypsy and Traveller Law (LAG 2007 – 2nd edition) and Marc Willers is the editor of the Council of Europe’s Roma Rights Handbook: Ensuring access to rights for Roma and Travellers (2009) – The role of the European Court of Human Rights. Members also contribute regularly to the Legal Action Group magazine and other legal journals.

Civil Clerks

If you would like more information about our Romani Gypsy and Traveller Rights Team, please email the clerks or call us on 020 7993 7600.

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