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A family of gypsies who say they have nowhere else to go other than land they own in Cropthorne, Worcestershire, ha...
A family of gypsies who say they have nowhere else to go other than land they own in Cropthorne, Worcestershire, have failed in an Appeal Court bid to lift the threat of prison hanging over their heads.

They must now get off the site they have been occupying at once or face the prospect of six weeks in prison for contempt of court.

Earlier this month, High Court judge Mr Justice Newman committed Wisdom Rafferty, his wife Jane Rafferty, and their daughter Dawn Connors to prison for six weeks for breach of an injunction requiring them to stay away from the site off the B4084 in Cropthorne. He suspended the sentence, provided they left the site by today (28 April).

Yesterday, the family, which also includes Dawn's three sons Thomas, 13, Johnny, 11, and Sam, 9, launched a renewed bid for a stay of execution, pending the outcome of their appeal against Wychavon DC's refusal to grant planning permission for their two caravans on the site.

They asked the Court of Appeal to overturn Mr Justice Newman's decision to impose the suspended sentence for contempt of court, and sought an amendment of the injunction to allow them to live on the site until their planning appeal is determined.

However, the Appeal Court rejected their appeal. Sir Andrew Morritt, sitting with Lord Justice Tuckey and Sir Peter Gibson, ruled that the judge had correctly applied all the legal principles and had not been obliged to 'second-guess' the ultimate outcome of the planning appeal.

They held he was entitled to find that the family had no realistic prospect of success, and that they had failed to show that his conclusion was one which could not reasonably have been reached.

Dawn bought the site in September 2005, but in November judge Mr Justice Penry-Davey imposed the injunction restraining them from stationing caravans there, from depositing hardcore, and from using it for residential purposes.

They camped for a time on a relative's plot on an authorised gypsy site in Tewkesbury, albeit without the Council's permission. However, they say they were forced to leave by violence and intimidation from other residents.

They began camping in a layby on the B4084 near their site, but highways authority Worcestershire CC sought possession of the layby, and they agreed to leave in March.

According to papers before the court, they had 'nowhere else to lawfully station their caravans and were faced with a stark choice between living on the side of the road, where they would be at constant risk of eviction by thje police and local authorities or moving onto the land in breach of the court order'.

As a result, they returned to the site on 12 March, and the council launched committal proceedings.

They had argued that Mr Justice Newman had erred in law in finding they did not stand a real prospect of success, when the site is not actually in the green belt.

They claimed he had breached their human rights by taking into account the possible availability to the family of conventional 'bricks and mortar' accommodation, when he had a positive obligation to facilitate their gypsy way of life.

They also expressed concern about the possible disruption of the children's schooling.


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