At this year’s Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Mary hosted a panel discussion with members of the Gypsy Roma Traveller community on the impact that the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill would have on their way of life.
It has long been noted that the PCSC Bill would effectively ‘criminalise’ the GRT way of life, making it easier for the police to seize people’s homes if they were parked on unauthorised land. The Bill makes no provisions to assist local authorities in increasing access to authorised encampments, meaning many families will be vulnerable to losing their homes.
The panel was part of the programme of ‘The World Transformed’ fringe events in Brighton this year. Panellists included Marc Willers QC, a lawyer who has represented GRT communities, Chelsea McDonagh, a masters student and Irish Traveller, Jake Bowers, a filmmaker, Mattey Mitchell, a Health Campaigns Officer at Friends Families and Travellers (FFT), and Allison Hulmes, a Welsh Romani activist. The panel was arranged by the secretariat of the GRT APPG, FFT
Discussions were broad ranging and highlighted the negative impact that the PCSC Bill would have on the community. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people face some of the starkest inequalities, with many facing discrimination and prejudice in everyday life, yet the Conservative Party made it a manifesto commitment to target Gypsies and Travellers living on roadside camps – it represents the hostile environment against Gypsies and Travellers.
Mary and other members of the APPG on Gypsies, Travellers and Roma have been opposing the Bill during the debates in parliament – this will continue as the Bill travels through parliament.