“Zach, we have a red hot emergency on our hands. I will be at Dale Farm within the hour to explain everything. Be ready for a long day.” After Grattan, founder of the Gypsy Council and, less notably, my boss during my time at Dale Farm, hung up the phone, I was left in an uneasy state, unsure about what was occurring and nervous due to the concerned tone in Grattan’s voice. Immediately, I recalled the helicopter that had hovered over Dale Farm the previous day for over an hour. Did that in anyway portend the news that Grattan was going to deliver?
For a sixty-eight year old man, Grattan is in surprisingly good physical shape. Tireless in his efforts to help the Travelers at Dale Farm avoid eviction, he moves from caravan to caravan at a brisk pace, stopping intermittingly to drink tea and to discuss the latest news about the eviction process.
When he showed up at the door of my caravan an hour later short of breath and wiping his brow with a handkerchief, I knew that he had came as quickly as possible. My heart began to beat faster, fearing that something much worse had occurred than what I previously thought.
After catching his breath, Grattan calmly explained what was happening. Although it was earlier believed that all 86 homes at Dale Farm were protected from eviction by a court injunction, Grattan had discovered that eleven properties located in the middle of Dale Farm were not, in fact, included.
The fourteen families living on the eleven properties had been notified through letters that the court injunction didn’t cover them; however, due to the high rate of illiteracy present in the community, they were unaware of their properties’ status, leaving them vulnerable to forceful eviction.
The task at hand now was to make sure that the fourteen families living in the eleven properties filled out the necessary legal paperwork so that they could apply for an extension of the court’s injunction, which would place them under the same court protection as the other 75 homes until the hearing by the High Court of a pending judicial review.
Although Grattan and I had previously received all of the legal forms from Dale Farm’s lawyer and knew exactly what information we needed to obtain, it soon became clear that filling out the forms would be complicated at best.
Whether it was the constant fear of been bitten by dogs while going from caravan to caravan (I myself got bit once in the leg), the difficulty of knowing whether or not the name someone gave you was their birth name or nickname, or my inability to fully understand what the Traveler’s were actually saying at all times, what I thought would be a quick exercise in British bureaucracy quickly turned into an all-day affair.
As the day came to an end, I found out that our efforts, as laborious as they were, did produce the desired result: the owners’ information on all but three properties had been obtained. Although the Basildon Development and Control Committee won’t vote for eviction action on the eleven properties until Tuesday, the information we obtained and the legal procedures that are to follow should play a major role in ensuring that the disputed properties fall under the same injunction as the rest of Dale Farm, rendering void any eviction resolution that the committee passes.
Posted By Zach Scott
Posted Jun 3rd, 2007