A council will take no further action against protesters arrested during the clearance of Europe's largest illegal travellers' site. The protesters were among those arrested as they clashed with police and bailiffs as travellers were removed from Dale Farm, Essex, in October last year.
Basildon Council successfully prosecuted two people for obstructing a bailiff and issued cautions to 10 others. But the council has said it is dropping the prosecution of 14 others. It said the decision followed a district judge questioning the public interest in bringing the earlier prosecution.
– Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council
This has been a finely balanced decision. I understand and respect the judge's comments about the time that has elapsed, the fact the site is cleared and any fines imposed would be low. I am concerned about the message this would send to the protesters, who caused the council to incur considerable extra expense, and to our residents who have had to pick up the bill.
However, there are a number of other factors to consider, including the time and cost for the police and the council and the court time that this is taking up."
The multi-million pound clearance followed a decade-long row over unauthorised plots on the six-acre site. There were violent clashes as scores of protesters joined travellers to resist the clearance.
The solicitor for the protesters welcomed the news.
– Raj Chada, Hodge Jones and Allen LLP, representing the protesters
As well as the millions spent on the eviction itself, Basildon Council sought to spend even more on a vindictive prosecution of a group of people who happened to disagree with them - and this at a time when local services are being slashed because of budget cuts. Thankfully for the clients, it is over."