Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: Leeds activist launches petition against Bill which 'threatens Traveller way of life'
A Leeds activist has launched a petition against proposed legislation that she fears will threaten the city's Gypsy and Traveller communities.
This includes powers to seize vehicles, fines of up to £2,500, and potential prison sentences for those who refuse to leave an unauthorised camp when asked by police.
Kim Maloney MBE fears the Bill will threaten the right to live nomadically, which is enshrined in law, and will lead to more children in the community being placed into care.
“I oppose the Bill because I’m a Traveller,” the 50-year-old told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“Why should we give up our culture? We’re people, we’re human beings, we’re just like everyone else.
“They’re not thinking about the impact on our children, the pain they’d have to go through - their home gone, daddy and mummy locked up.”
Kim was awarded an MBE in 2019 for her services to the Gypsy and Traveller community in West Yorkshire.
She was a key contributor to Leeds City Council's negotiated stopping scheme, which allows Travellers to stay on designated sites for 28 days without fear of eviction.
Kim is now collecting hundreds of signatures from families at the Cottingley Springs Caravan Site, where she lives, and other sites in Leeds.
The petition will be submitted to MPs, urging them to oppose the Bill.
Kim added: “We work and live just like everybody else, we just live in a caravan. I loved my travelling life and I don’t know why people should have to give that up.”
The Home Office says the boosted police powers will comply with human rights obligations and will target only a small number of Gypsies and Travellers who engage in anti-social behaviour.
However, the Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (Leeds GATE) fears the Bill will threaten the positive relationships which have been formed through the negotiated stopping scheme.
The charity's CEO, Ellie Rogers, said: "Lots of people are frightened about unauthorised encampments or may have a negative option of Gypsies and Travellers.
"Under the legislation, the fear of anti-social behaviour is enough for the police to come out and fine and imprison people, or seize their vehicles if they don't move.
"Our members are really scared and disappointed. The negative impact this could have on their families is absolutely terrifying."
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The vast majority of Travellers are law-abiding, and we recognise their right to follow a nomadic way of life in line with their cultural heritage, so any measures introduced will comply with equality and human rights obligations.
“This new offence will enable the police to arrest those residing on private or public land in vehicles who refuse to leave when asked to do so, in order to stop significant damage, disruption and distress being caused.”
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