Protesters say new policing bill will criminalise annual Gypsy and Traveller event in Cumbria

More than 100 people were at Westminster protesting against a new policing Bill that they say would criminalise an annual Gypsy cultural event in Cumbria.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will affect Gypsies, Roma and Travellers stopping off on their way to the annual Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria, protestors say.

Appleby-in-Westmorland is transformed every summer by members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community for the horse fair.

It dates back to the 12th century and sees the largest gathering of the Gypsy, Romany and Traveller community in Europe.

The Bill would expand enforcement measures, allowing police to place bans on returning to land for extended periods and permitting the seizure of property, which may even the vehicles in which community members live.

Campaigners warn that this to crack down on unauthorised encampments could breach the human rights of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.

Appleby Horse fair Credit: ITV Border

The legislation is part of efforts to overhaul the justice system, cut offending and make streets safer, the Government said.Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) chairman Harriet Harman, said: "This Bill takes amajor step in making it a criminal offence for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers communities to be on private land without consent.

Some campaigners previously told the JCHR the proposals in the Bill are based on "racial hatred" and would threaten the rights Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people have to live a traditional, nomadic way of life.A Home Office spokesperson said: "The vast majority of Travellers are law-abiding, and we recognise their right to follow a nomadic way of life in line with their cultural heritage.

"Unauthorised encampments reflect badly on the law-abiding Traveller community – they can cause misery to those who live nearby, with communities impacted by problems such as being unable to access or use their land, and excessive noise and littering.

"It’s therefore right we are giving the police the powers they need to address this issue and the Government will continue its work to provide more authorised sites for Travellers to reside on. We expect police to treat all communities with respect and enforcement decisions will absolutely not be made on the basis of ethnicity or race.”