Jail threat over travellers' return to Dale Farm

Travellers who have returned to Dale Farm in Essex risk jail terms after breaching a court injunction banning occupation of the site, a council has said.

Up to 10 families moved back on to the land days after bailiffs and council officials completed their clearance operation.

Basildon Council said the re-occupation of the illegal site was "unacceptable".

But the travellers said they had nowhere else to go.

The action to remove caravans and chalets from 51 unauthorised plots finished on Monday.

The council obtained an injunction to prevent reoccupation of the illegal half of the site, near Basildon.

However, caravans have now returned to the land that was cleared.

Tony Ball, the council's Conservative leader, said injunctions had been served against the occupants of five caravans.

"These attempts to reoccupy the site are unacceptable and put them in contempt of court that could lead to a prison sentence," he said.

"We have done all that we can legally to prevent reoccupation, and we cannot do any more. We believe that the law needs strengthening in this regard."

The existing legal site is also above its authorised capacity.

Image caption Police in riot gear entered Dale Farm on 19 October

Mr Ball said: "If the law is being broken, we will continue to enforce, as we would with any member of the community and as the public expect us to do."

During the clearance operation, the council removed concrete and placed earth embankments across the six-acre site in order to prevent travellers resettling on their old plots.

Violent scenes

However, some travellers have parked alongside the plots.

One traveller Daniel Sheridan, 67, said: "We need to stay somewhere and can't be out on the road over winter."

Another, Patrick Egan, said: "We fully expect the council to serve notices on us, telling us to leave.

"If that happens, we will occupy car parks and roadsides in Basildon, anywhere that we can get access to.

"The council simply hasn't provided anywhere else for us to go."

Violence erupted when police and bailiffs moved on to Dale Farm on 19 October.

The clearance followed a decade-long row over unauthorised plots.

At its peak, some 400 people lived on Dale Farm, which made it the UK's largest illegal travellers' site.

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