Get me a Lawyer!

I've received a letter posted on my van.

'To: White Transit van
Land: _______________  

I, Nick Hibberd, Head of Service, Housing and Social Inclusion, Brighton and Hove City Council, Kings House, Brighton, DO HEREBY GIVE YOU NOTICE that the above land is: 
Unoccupied land. 
And is within the administrative area of Brighton and Hove Council and that you are residing in vehicles on the said land contrary to Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. 
Therefore, I DO HEREBY DIRECT YOU to leave the said land and remove the above mentioned vehicles and any other property you might have with you on the land,
TAKE FURTHER NOTICE THAT should you fail to comply with this direction as soon as practicable Brighton and Hove Council will apply to Brighton and Hove Magistrates' Court for an Order requiring the removal of the said vehicles and any persons residing in them. 
AND TAKE FURTHER NOTICE that should you fail to comply with this direction, or having done so, again enter the said land with a vehicle within the period of THREE MONTHS beginning with the date hereof you will be committing an offence and will be liable for summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale. 
Dated this 5th day of January 2012. 
Nick Hibberd
Head of Service, Housing and Social Inclusion
Brighton and Hove City Council
Kings House
Grand Avenue
Hove
East Sussex
BN3 2SR

Okay, a little background. A homeless friend is sleeping in my van, declared SORN, parked off-road somewhere in Brighton. Obviously, I'm not going to say where. He was evicted from New Steine Mews BY BRIGHTON AND HOVE CITY COUNCIL, so quite why the 'Social Inclusion' people of Brighton and Hove City Council are complaining to me I have no idea. They expelled him from their own homeless hostel. He has come to me, it's very cold, very wet, very rainy and so I let him sleep in my van at night to take shelter.

Now, the same Council that's thrown him out is complaining to me when I give him shelter! They're not complaining because the van is parked off-road. Their complaining that a homeless person is sheltering in a van at night! I guess, if he just curled up in a sleeping bag in a piss-stinking car park, or slept rough in the park in some bushes in the freezing cold and wet, there would be no complaints from the Council. I can't move the thing because its SORN and I can't afford to get it fixed to pass the MOT. The 'Housing and Social Inclusion' staff have no qualms about putting homeless men on the street but then punish those who offer refuge to the homeless! Here is that Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act:

Sections 77, 78 and 79: Unauthorised Campers

'Unauthorised campers' are people residing in a vehicle or vehicles on any part of the highway or any other land in the open air without permission of the owner.

Section 77 gives the local council the authority to direct an unauthorised camper to leave the land and remove all vehicles. It becomes an offence to not leave the land and remove all vehicles/ property 'as soon as reasonably practicable' or to re-enter the land within 3 months, liable to a fine of up to £1000.

A magistrates' court can make an order under section 78 which allows the local council to take 'reasonable steps' to ensure the removal of a vehicle and any person residing within it. Another new offence is the wilful obstruction of anyone engaged in the removal - maximum fine of £1000.

A thousand pounds, eh? Funny, because that's what I was quoted to get the thing fixed! In other words, the wicked are rewarded and the just are condemned! What about the right to shelter under the Human Rights Act?! What about the right not to die of pneumonia or get beaten up by drunken louts because the Council kicked you out of a hostel in winter?! Welcome to Brighton, readers! I don't doubt that the law is on their side, but justice certainly is not! And, if I move the van, exactly where can I park it off-road and where, exactly, is my homeless friend meant to sleep? Where's The Daily Mail when you really need them?! Isn't it funny how the 'unoccupied land' rules are changed when Zippo's Circus or Gay Pride comes to town!?

Comments

A. Nicot said…
What an absurdity! Out of all your stories about the homeless, Mr. England, this one is the most outrageous. At most, I can understand having laws against the homeless sleeping in public zones, but in a private van with the permission of the owner? That just doesn't make sense. I hope that goes well for you and the homeless fellow.
mum6kids said…
Chesterton or some other distributist once noted that the way the elite wanted to handle the problem of poverty was to get rid of the poor. Nothing much has changed it seems.
I am well past being surprised by anything like this.
May God give you the strength to kick ...
It's not right that the bones crushed give the thrill. It is painful and unbearable situation which stops us from doing all the needy work. So finally I say that the bones should not be crushed...
Black Rat said…
That is a joke.

That particular part of the law was intended to be used in order to break up illegal traveller encampments - where 5 to 25 caravans and transits used to get into a farmers field by means of a pair of bolt croppers and then go on to raise the local crime rate for a couple of months before being moved on.

Police used to escort the council official down to the site to give that notice as soon as possible - sometimes within hours of arrival - because as soon as it was given the court could be approached if it looked like they weren't going to move on.

It wasn't intended to penalise someone who is the victim of circumstances and / or the man doing him a favour.

The most simple enquiries would have led them to you where it could have been discussed.

I am so glad I don't live in that council's area.

Good luck, I will be praying for you.
Gloria Gerraghty said…
I dont think any council would allow anyone to live in a van. There are obvious public health and safety issues. Imagine if people started living in lots of unroadworthy vechiles, what would it lead to?
Richard said…
I can't get over the fact that he is "Head of Social Inclusion".

Do these people have no sense of how others see them?

Or does he actually have a rich vein of very dark humour?
Nil Carborundum Illegitimi said…
This official document of the Council states: "And is within the administrative area of Brighton and Hove Council and that you are residing in vehicles on the said land contrary to Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994."

It is my experience that legal documents must be watertight, but this document clearly states that YOU are residing in vehicles on the said land etc, etc. But, while it is your vehicle (the document uses the plural - vehicles) it is not YOU who is residing in the vehicle but someone else. It accuses you of the 'crime' but it is not you who is the 'criminal', but your friend. Therefore the document is factually incorrect, and therefore, in my opinion, worthless. I challenged a speeding ticket on the same basis, that the facts were incorrect, and won my case.

I also noticed that the fellow whose name is on the document is described as head of housing and social inclusion. Should this not be social EXCLUSION?

Another point. If the council removes the 'said vehicles and any persons residing in them', what will they do with 'said persons'? Where would they remove them to? Jail? local rest home? Council house? This is a most interesting document. By the way, have you checked out Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994?

The document also states that you must move your vehicle 'as soon as practicable'. However, as it is SORN, and you cannot afford to get it fixed, then 'as soon as possible' might be quite some time.

None of this helps you in your current predicament but it might give you some ideas if you get another one of these friendly leters from the head of social inclusion.

I thought it ironic that this threatening letter evicting a homeless man from a white van comes from a council employee in 'Kings House, Grand Avenue'. It's alright for some.