Gypsy festival landowner jailed for contempt

Posted: 12th March 2013

Open landA landowner who allowed travellers to use his farm to celebrate a religious festival in breach of a judge’s order has been sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for his contempt of court. Although Errol Clarke apologised for his conduct, the High Court ruled that his defiance had to be met by fitting punishment.

In August 2012, Mr Clarke was paid £1,000 before permitting up to 200 vehicles and about 700 members of the Light and Life Church onto his farmland near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, to celebrate an annual festival. The event sparked concern in the local community because of unauthorised dumping of rubbish and the failure of some of the attendees to use the portable toilets provided.

Mr Clarke had previously been forbidden by court order from allowing caravans onto his land but engaged in a roof-top protest at his home, complaining of his treatment by Aylesbury Vale District Council. He was arrested and spent five days in custody before being brought before the court and admitting his contempt.

Sentencing him, Sir Raymond Jack said: “It is clear that this was a deliberate breach of the order and, in the circumstances, it must be met with an immediate prison sentence. Mr Clarke has said to me that he is sorry for what he has done and that the time he has spent in prison has made a considerable impact on him. I have come to the conclusion that an appropriate sentence in the circumstances would be one of four months' imprisonment."