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Civil trespass


Although the Countryside and Rights of Way Act creates new legal rights of access it does not give blanket permission to walk wherever you want. The new Act will give people access to over four million acres of mountain, heath, moor, down and common land throughout England and Wales.

The Countryside Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales will draw up maps which will show the new rights of access. It is being brought in gradually and in some places it is already in force. Please see the website in related information for details of the area you live in. Additionally the new ordnance survey maps will show new rights of access which will be distributed locally.

There are responsibilities and restrictions that come along with the Act. It does not allow:
  • camping and organised games
  • damaging plants and animals
  • dropping litter and lighting fires
  • bathing in non tidal-water
Anyone breaking a restriction will be classed as a trespasser and will not be allowed to re-enter the land for 72 hours. Under the Act, as you would imagine, people are responsible for their own safety at all times.


Trespass to land in most instances is a civil matter, and as such the police do not have the power to assist. Initially, the landowner should ask the trespasser to leave the land and if he/she does then all is well. If he/she refuses to leave the land then you will need to consider taking civil action. It could be dangerous for the landowner to try to remove the trespasser themselves.

The owner of the land could commit several criminal offences if he forcibly removes the trespasser and his/her property from the land. The best and safest course of action is to obtain a court order, which, if breached, can then become a criminal matter.

If the police do attend an incident such as this, they are merely there as observers for any possible criminal offences committed by either party. The police cannot assist in the removal of the trespassers or their property from the land in question. However the police do have some removal powers against larger groups of occupiers.

Any damage done by a trespasser, or use of threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour towards the occupier, may amount to a criminal offence and should be reported to the police on 101.
Trespass is very complex and guidance should be sought from a solicitor where appropriate.


Abandoning horses on public/private land without the permission of the landowner is known as 'fly grazing.' If this happens, the police must be notified of this within 24 hours and the owners have up to 4 days to reclaim their horses. (previously it was 14 days).

Before taking action to remove the horses, you should enquire whether your neighbours or anyone locally know who the animals belong to. If, after the 4 days nobody reclaims the animals, the landowners have a much wider range of options as to what to do with them. Though they can still choose to sell them at auction, they can also choose to re-home seized horses privately or to charities, sell them privately or as a last resort they can have the animals humanely euthanised. Any excess money will remain recoverable with the owner.

You will be responsible for the control and welfare of the animals during the time that they are detained on your land and will need to make sure that they are fed and have access to water. If there is no water supply in the area where the horses are, or you have any other concerns regarding the welfare of the animals, you should raise your concerns with the RSPCA.

For more information, please see the link in Related Information.

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