HL Deb 22 May 1991 vol 529 cc11-2WA
Lord Gainford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have completed the evaluation of Section 39 of the Public Order Act 1968.

Earl Ferrers:

We have now completed the thorough review of Section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986 which was announced by my right honourable friend the then Home Secretary on 26th October 1989. The Government are grateful to all those individuals and organisations who contributed their views.

After considering carefully all the representations received, my right honourable friend has concluded that more needs to be done to secure a better understanding by all interested parties of the way in which the law should operate, but that no change to the law is necessary.

We have therefore decided, after consultation with the Association of Chief Police Officers, to issue guidance to the police on the application of Section 39. Whilst the decision whether or not to use the powers available under Section 39 is an operational matter entirely within the discretion of the senior police officer present at the scene of a trespass, the guidance aims to assist forces in coming to a more consistent application of these powers across the country in dealing with aggravated trespass. A copy of this guidance has been placed in the Library.

We believe that it would be helpful to the interested parties to have available a simple guide to the law in relation to trespass on land. The Home Office is therefore publishing today, in consultation with the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Department of the Environment, a leaflet setting out the main provisions of the law. It covers, as well as Section 39, the civil remedies open to landowners and the requirements in respect of the provision of official sites for travellers under the Caravan Sites Act 1968. A copy of the leaflet has also been placed in the Library.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will continue to encourage local authorities to fulfil their duty under the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to provide adequate numbers of sites for gypsies.

We believe that these measures should do much to reduce uncertainty about the proper application of Section 39 and will assist landowners in finding the most suitable remedy for trespass on land in the circumstances of each particular case.