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Dale Farm eviction contract attracts notorious bailiffs

By Grattan Puxon

The UK’s most notorious anti-Gypsy security firm, responsible for the brutal Twin Oaks eviction in 2004, says it expects to take on the biggest clearance operation ever mounted against a village community in Britain in modern times.

Constant & Co, which has earned tens of millions of euros clearing Gypsies from their own land in barely legal, hard hat-style sorties around England, now wants the contract to demolish Dale Farm, home to 500 Travellers near Crays Hill, Essex.

The job, worth around £3 million, would involve removing, and in some plots smashing, chalets and mobile-homes, and physically forcing up to 90 families, including children, the elderly and infirm, to leave the district, impoverished and with nowhere legally to live.
Along with their homes and children’s primary school, the families stand to lose their unique youth-club community centre and Saint Christopher’s Chapel.

“This is ethnic-cleansing,” said one voluntary worker who visits Dale Farm. “But the council are trying to disguise that fact with a lot of politically-correct language.”

Dale Farm children protesting

Because of the high cost of the work, Basildon have been compelled to put it out to tender in the official Journal of the European Union. The closing date for bids is mid-August.

In its ad the council states that the winner bidder must “demonstrate a commitment to upholding the principles of equality and diversity legislation and be sensitive and responsive to the needs of people.”

However, Basildon has already indicated it favours re-engagement of Constant, a firm the council has already employed for a number of small evictions. Critics say these were conducted in a way that flaunted EU health and safety regulations, and resulted in the needless trashing of huge quantities of private belongings. Valuable Crown Derby china and other items have gone missing during some clearances.

Referring to the Twin Oaks eviction, Justice Collins said in the High Court that having seen a video of Constant at work he considered the bailiffs’ conduct unacceptable as it inevitably led to harm to those affected.

“The council must re-consider the use of this firm,” stated Justice Collins. He also noted that the police had failed to curb the excesses of Constant bailiffs.

Collins added that in cases of serious ill-health or needs of children, eviction would be disproportionate. Although the right to evict has since been upheld, the conditions he attached were adopted in a complex Court of Appeal ruling earlier this year.

Jean Sheridan, a Dale Farm mother of triplets, is fearful of the trauma bailiffs could cause her babes. She hopes that before Constant is ordered in she will be able to mount a case in the European Court of Human Rights.

“We have nowhere else to go and my babes need medical help,” Jean says. “They were born prematurely and lucky to live. How will they survive the terrors Constant will bring?”
The UK Children’s Commissioner has asked Basildon what it intends to do to safeguard children during demolition and what alternate accommodation is being offered them. No satisfactory answer has yet been received.

20 July 2009

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