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Dealing with activist intrusions: Top tips for farmers and landowners

CLA legal advisor Andrew Gillett gives his top tips and tricks to dealing with unwanted visitors.

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Top tips for farmers and landowners when dealing with activist intrusions

According to CLA legal advisor Andrew Gillett, there is a wide range of offences that may be committed by activists when carrying out activities on your farm, including offences such as aggravated trespass, harassment and breach of the peace.

 

“Situations involving activists on your farm can be very distressing but the most important thing is to try to remain calm,” he said.

 

“If you feel able, you should ask the activists to leave politely and contact the police as soon as possible.”

 

In the case of a situation where safety is uncertain or there is concern about abusive behaviour going on or coming up, Mr Gillett suggested it would be best to ensure ‘you do not become the target of the activists’.

 

He said: “However if you can take a note of the registration plate of the vehicle they have arrived in or collect any other useful evidence without putting yourself in harm’s way, then this can be useful later.

 

“As with other similar issues the best way forward is to take action before such an event takes place.”


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Dos and don’ts:

  • Securing Gates

Gates should be adequately secured at both ends, hinges can be reversed or capped and good quality chains and padlocks should be used.

 

“Anything that deters unwanted visitors from coming onto your property is obviously a good thing but you have to be careful that you are not impinging on a public right of way,” said Mr Gillett.

 

Gates situated over a public right of way cannot be locked, even if it is it just a footpath. “It is an offence to deliberately obstruct a public right of way,” he said.

 

  • Public rights of way and trespass

According to Mr Gillett, finding ways to adequately secure your property if there is a public right of way can be more difficult.

 

As long as walkers are sticking within the rules of what the public right of way allows, they are not trespassing.

 

“If they go beyond that, say for instance by driving on a footpath, that would be above and beyond the right and they would be trespassing as well as potentially committing an offence under Section 34(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988” Mr Gillett said.

“As far as taking pictures, it is generally accepted that you can take pictures from a right of way but there can be an argument that there is an invasion of privacy if you are taking pictures of someone’s home and they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

  • Security cameras

CCTV is a great tool for collecting evidence and deterring unwanted activity but farmers must be aware of the rules and regulations.

 

The use of CCTV falls within the scope of the Data Protection Act and the body responsible for its enforcement is the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

 

Amongst other areas it encourages those considering a surveillance system to take into account the nature of the problem; if a surveillance system would be a justified and effective solution; if better solutions exist; what effect its use may have on individuals and whether, in light of this, its use would be a proportionate response to the problem.

 

Mr Gillett said: “If you have a farmyard with expensive tools and machinery and you have the potential for people to be trespassing in there, that is the sort of time you would want to put CCTV up.

 

“But before putting it up make sure you are not going to fall foul of the rules.”

 

The ICO have produced the CCTV Code of Practice to help organisations using CCTV stay within the law. New rules are set to become enforceable on May 25 2018 as a result of the General Data Protection Regulation, which again will be enforced by the ICO.


Five things you can do to better protect your farm:

1 – Put up simple signs in areas where you do not want the public. A simple sign letting people know that it is private property if anyone is up to no good is a good thing.

 

2 – Implement CCTV, providing it is within the rules.

 

3 – Consider security lighting. If you have standard CCTV, it is not going to be much use in the dark.

 

4 – Use high quality padlocks and make sure all accesses into the yard are shut and secured.

 

5 – Ensure vehicles are marked with an anti-theft system, such as smart water, are immobilised and preferably locked away in a secure building.

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