Dale Farm: Travellers win injunction delaying eviction

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Media captionDale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy said she would fight on "to the bitter end"

Residents at the UK's largest illegal travellers' site, at Dale Farm in Essex, have won a court injunction delaying their planned eviction.

Travellers won the injunction restraining Basildon Council from clearing the site pending a further High Court hearing on Friday.

Earlier bailiffs urged campaigners to stop obstructing the eviction process.

Council leader Tony Ball said he was disappointed but confident the courts would ultimately back the authority.

As many as 400 people have been living on 51 unauthorised caravan plots at Dale Farm.

Cheers inside

Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart granted the injunction at London's High Court on the basis there was a realistic apprehension that the measures to be taken - while genuinely believed in by the council - "may go further" than the terms of the enforcement notices.

He said: "Having regard to the fact there is no fixed date for starting these - but they are imminent - I do not see that any serious injustice will be caused if the actual implementation of any measures will not take place before the end of this week."

There were cheers inside the Dale Farm site as residents and supporters were told the news.

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Media captionBasildon Council leader Tony Ball says he is "disappointed and frustrated"

Resident Mary Slattery said: "We are delighted. Every day is a bonus. We've got one last chance and we're not going to give up - this gives us so much hope."

There was a party-like atmosphere as music began to play and travellers taunted bailiffs from the barricades, singing: "We're not going to go."

When they heard about the injunction, supporters who had chained themselves to the barriers began to unlock themselves.

'Extremely disappointed'

Supporter Jake Fulton said: "This is really great news but this isn't over yet.

"It makes us feel we have a really good shot at defending travellers in a way that has never happened before."

Speaking outside the site, Mr Ball said: "Clearly I and the council are extremely disappointed and frustrated by the decision of the High Court today.

Image caption Travellers celebrated after the news of the injunction came through

"The motion was put forward to the High Court without notice which meant that the judge only had one side of the story and therefore has given the council until Friday to go back to the High Court to make its argument.

"I'm absolutely clear that on this issue on Friday that the courts will find in the council's favour and that the site clearance will be able to continue. But until then, as always, this council will comply with the law and we will comply with the judgement that's been put before us.

"But I'm absolutely confident that once we put our side of the story, our case, that the law again will be seen to be upheld and this council will enforce that law."

The High Court injunction covers physical structures including cars and caravans and also prevents the cutting off of any utilities unless they pose a danger "to life and limb".

The judge directed that Basildon Council should serve a schedule on the residents by midday on Tuesday specifying what enforcement measures were proposed on a plot-by-plot basis, with the residents responding by midday on Thursday.

'Give and take'

He said he would consider whether there were any remaining issues justifying a further extension of the injunction at 11:30 BST on Friday.

The judge said residents were to take reasonable steps to permit council officials on site to discuss arrangements with individuals, to discourage any further student protest and to procure the dismantling of barricades.

He told Candy Sheridan, vice-chair of the Gypsy Council of North Norfolk, resident Mary Sheridan, volunteer Stuart Carruthers and the council's barrister Reuben Taylor: "It is in nobody's interests that we have a riot on this site.

"There's got to be a bit of give and take over a limited timeframe to see if the problems can be dealt with in an orderly rather than disruptive way."

He told the Dale Farm representatives: "I appreciate it is a deeply unpleasant situation but unfortunately this is a road which is reaching its end and there is sadly no mileage in prolonging the agony."

Essex Police said in a statement: "We await the result of the High Court hearing on Friday and will adjust our plans accordingly."

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