The High Court has rejected residents' appeals against eviction from the contested part of the site at Dale Farm, pictured (photo: Damian Le Bas)
The campaign to save Dale Farm received a major setback when a judge threw out three separate legal attempts to postpone the eviction until other sites were found for the residents to move to, reports Mike Doherty
At the start of Wednesday's court case at the High Court in London, the Judge, Mr Justice Ouseley, said that: “At the end of this hearing, one side is going to be disappointed.”
It turned out to be the Travellers and their supporters as Mr Justice Ouseley ruled against them and lifted the injunction that was stopping Basildon Council from sending in the bailiffs.
Dale Farm resident, Kathleen McCarthy, said, “Travellers have always faced persecution under the law and we hoped that this time would be different, but it seems like the High Court cares more about planning regulations than our human rights. I can’t believe they would carry on with this senseless eviction that will separate families and tear apart a community, just to make Dale Farm into a scrap-yard again.”
The most important of the three legal attempts to halt the eviction was a judicial review lodged by Gypsy and Traveller planning law campaigner Marc Villiers. Mr Villiers argued that the Travellers need for a home was greater than Basildon Council’s need to enforce the planning law.
The Judge, Mr Justice Ouseley disagreed and ruled that it was “in the public interest” that the council uphold the planning law. Mr Justice Ouseley also said that although he recognised that Basildon Council did not provide enough official Traveller sites and that the eviction would cause great hardship to the Travellers; this was not enough when balanced against the need to enforce the law.
Despite Mr Justice Ouseley reprimanding Basildon Council for not providing enough sites or pitches and recognizing that the eviction would cause great harm to the elderly, the infirm and the children at Dale Farm, Basildon Council Leader Tony Ball remained defiant. Speaking after the hearing he said: "This is not a day for triumphalism, but I do take quiet satisfaction on behalf of local people that in all matters the council has been found to have acted lawfully.”
Pointing out that the Travellers were ‘local people’ as well, a Dale Farm supporter outside the court said: “Basildon Council don’t care about the welfare of this community. Instead, they are intent on clearing them out of Basildon and willing to spend £22 million in the process. Today, the law has failed the Dale Farm community.”
In response to the High Court ruling the Essex Euro MP Richard Howitt who has sought to mediate in the crisis said:
"Now the High Court has ruled on Dale Farm, my first concern is for the safety of all involved, violence cannot be justified and the law must be respected by all."
Dale Farm residents are now considering whether to appeal, but in the meantime the eviction can now go ahead although Basildon Council said that it may take some time to get the police and bailiffs back in place and ready to act.