Daily Mail Wrongly Castigates “Human Rights” and “Travellers” in Article re Stolen Caravan

The good old Daily Mail never ceases to disappoint. Each day it shows that it is in fact a very clever spoof newspaper, seeking to poke fun at the prejudices of some of its readers. After all, the alternative, namely that the editorial line of the Mail is genuine and that it means what it says is too horrible to contemplate.

As well as the BBC being a target for Mail disapproval, readers might perceive that the paper also does not like those perceived to be “non-British”. I would never accuse the Mail of racism, so please do not take that implication from what I say. However I can see how a misguided soul could take that impression from some of its articles.

On Monday the Mail published a piece which is now under the headline:-

“Police won’t hand stolen caravan back to couple to protect human rights of the travellers living in it”.

The headline originally referred to “gypsies” and not travellers. At some point over the last day or so that has been changed. Sense prevailing perhaps?

One criticism of the Mail (and indeed of many papers from time to time) is that its stories do not match the headlines, and indeed that the stories are sometimes contradicted by the very article itself.

So here we have a headline which lays the blame on “Human Rights” for the travellers in question being allowed to stay in stolen property. The article reads, in part, with my comments in bold:-

A couple whose £30,000 caravan was stolen have been told a traveller family now living in it cannot be removed because it would breach their human rights.

Kathleen McClelland and her partner Michael Curry spent their life savings on the top-of-the-range camper and were devastated when it vanished from the secure site where they kept it.

When police eventually found the 26ft-long Bailey Louisiana caravan 18 months later, its owners were told a traveller couple and their two young children were living in it only ten miles from their home in Surrey.

Their initial relief turned to outrage, however, when the police said they had ‘no lawful powers’ to get it back. They were told their only option was to begin costly civil proceedings against the family, which they say they cannot afford.

Mrs McClelland and Mr Curry had spent £10,000 improving the £20,000 caravan, including putting in a widescreen TV. They bought the vehicle on hire purchase – and still have to make monthly payments of £250 for the next two years.

First of all, I should make clear that I appreciate that Mrs McClelland and Mr Curry have lost a valuable property and, as victims, want to obtain redress. In those circumstances it is not uncommon for people to blame anyone and everyone if they do not get the remedy they want or feel they are entitled to. Mrs McClelland and Mr Curry cannot understand why “their caravan” has someone else living in it and they can do nothing about it.

My comments are directed at the Mail and its “spinning” of the story to suit its perceived agenda.

So we have the Mail pulling at the heart-strings by telling us that Mrs McClelland and Mr Curry spent their life savings on the caravan. I am not suggesting that they did not. But as the piece mentions, they are paying for the caravan on HP at £250 per month. They have two years still to run. They bought the caravan in 2007. That suggests that they bought it on HP over 8 years, meaning that, as well as contributing their life savings, they will have paid around £25,000 in HP costs. Maybe their deposit and the improvements they carried out cost them their savings. But it makes the story “better” to say they spent all their money on it rather than saying that they spent their savings and took on a hefty HP contract.


Hospital ward clerk Mrs McClelland, 68, said: ‘The police said that removing the family would breach their human rights and that they would have to be rehoused before it could be seized. We spent all our retirement money on that caravan because we thought it would last us a lifetime. We’re absolutely devastated. It seems as though no one cares about our human rights.

The Mail reproduced the letter sent to the couple by the police. You can read it below.

Letter re MAil

Maybe I am missing something, but it does not mention “human rights”.

That is not to say that an officer might not have said that to them, but if they had, they were clearly wrong to do so.

Instead the police have been trying to see if they can help, but, for the reasons explained here (but not by the Mail) there are perfectly cogent reasons why they cannot.


The couple, who live in a semi-detached home in Tongham, Surrey, were in between insurance policies at the time of the theft in 2011 so were not covered for a payout.

And here is the rub. Why have insurance? In case something goes wrong. Here the couple have lost out because they were “between insurance policies”. Insurance protects against risk. Not being insured means that the couple were taking the risk. Sometimes, where there is a risk, things go wrong.

If they had been insured then they would have made and settled their claim, and it would have been left to the insurers to argue about the caravan.

So, to coin a phrase, the couple have been the authors of their own misfortune, and understandably want to find someone else to blame.

Last September police located and identified the caravan in Hook, Hampshire, after interviewing a suspect for an unrelated offence. But because officers did not have evidence that the current occupier knew the caravan was stolen when he allegedly purchased it, he could not be prosecuted and the force said it was unable to seize it.

 ‘I just cannot comprehend it,’ (Mr Curry) said. ‘If I was stopped by the police and it turned out my car, which I had brought in good faith, was stolen, it would be confiscated and I would lose my money.’

No, Mr Curry, with respect you are wrong.

If the thief had been identified then it would be possible that the evidence (whether a car or caravan) would be seized pending resolution of criminal proceedings. In such a case where the thief was dealt with by the court system, once the case ended there would then be a dispute between the original owner and the person who possessed it when seized as to ownership. Could the person who possessed the property at the end show that they were a bona fide purchaser for value? If so, then the original owner loses out.

But here there (a) was no thief identified and (b) no evidence that the possessor now was guilty of receiving stolen goods, or “rest” as we would call it here.

Mr Curry said they bought the caravan in 2007 and would use it for family weekends away in Cornwall, Cumbria, Scotland and the south coast. It was stolen from a secure storage site in Crookham, Hampshire, after thieves disabled the alarm and cut through a wheel clamp and lock.

One wonders if the couple have had a good look at the terms of their contract with the “secure storage site”. After all, it turned out not to be very secure when thieves could enter the site, disable the alarm, cut through a wheel clamp and lock and then remove the caravan from the site!

Presumably a site advertised or described as “secure” might actually provide some security? If so, what contractual liability does the site have? There is no mention in the piece that they claimed the site unsuccessfully.

Mr Curry said: ‘Apparently they (the family found to have the caravan) had a receipt for it and had paid a guy £300 in a pub for it. They had no proof apart from a handwritten note on a scrap of paper, while we had everything proving it was ours. If they wanted a caravan, why not save up for it like we did?

Except Mr Curry was paying for it on HP, and over an 8-year period.

‘I have lost all faith in the police. It seems that they have completely let us down and turned their backs on us.’

The problem for the police is that it has to act within the law. The police are not here to resolve civil court disputes, but to investigate crime and apprehend wrongdoers. As I mentioned above, in the absence of any alleged offender, the police can do nothing more than they have. I can see why Mr Curry is upset, and unfortunately the Mail coverage is not going to help his feelings of dis-satisfaction. His anger is directed in the wrong place.

A Hampshire Police spokesman said: ‘A 22-year-old man from Hook was arrested and interviewed on suspicion of theft, however there was insufficient evidence to prove he had been involved in the theft, or would have known the caravan was stolen when he bought it. He was released with no further action. We have no police powers to seize the caravan and have advised the owners to seek civil action in order to recover it.’

And the last sentence sums the whole issue up. It is a civil matter. It is for the couple to take court action in the civil courts to recover their caravan.

If the case was in Scotland (and the following is probably true for England too but I will leave that for English lawyers) if all the possessors now have is a receipt for cash of £300, then in an action between them and the couple, I see no likelihood that a court would find against Mrs McClelland and Mr Curry, unless the caravan has deteriorated to the extent that £300 is a fair price.

Some years ago there was a similar case involving the ex-Rangers player Ian Ferguson. He was in dispute with an insurance company about a sports car he had bought. It turned out that the car had been stolen before Mr Ferguson bought it. (There was no suggestion he was involved in any way with the theft or knew that the car had been stolen.)

However his claim to the car, on the basis that he had paid several thousand pounds cash to a man he met in a pub failed to convince the Sheriff that the footballer had been a bona fide purchaser, on the basis that the price he paid was far lower than the car’s value.

On that basis a £300 receipt for a caravan worth far more is unlikely to persuade a court!



There is no doubt that Mrs McClelland and Mr Curry have lost out. They have spent a sizeable sum on a caravan, and more money on improvements, and have lost all of their “investment” as well as having to pay two more years of HP payments.

But it is not as a result of “Human Rights” or police incompetence or the country bending over backwards to help travellers.

Instead the loss is the fault of:-

  • The thieves
  • The owners for failing to insure the caravan; and
  • Potentially the “secure site” owners.

Indeed if you want to blame the police, then do so for not finding the thieves! If they had done so, then the caravan might have been seized!

And if you want to blame the government, then do so on the basis that Legal Aid cuts in England mean that this couple cannot afford to pursue a case which, on the information in the article, they would almost certainly win!

But instead it is easier for the Mail to blame travellers and Human Rights …

Quelle surprise!

Posted by Paul McConville



Filed under Civil Law, Criminal Law, Daily Mail, Human Rights, Press

38 responses to “Daily Mail Wrongly Castigates “Human Rights” and “Travellers” in Article re Stolen Caravan

  1. cam

    I’m liking this new direction Paul,,,keep firing your Hagra biscuits at the Daily Mail,the troops inside the walls of Ibrox have developed a taste for them.
    The human immune system is a wonderful thing.

  2. William Fraser

    Just goes to prove that the law is an ass and those who spend their lives upholding that law are bigger asses than those who made it. Maybe it’s time that Cameron and his bunch of C**TS stopped fiddling the books and looked after the people who voted them in. Oh, but Maggie May’s diabetes is all that matters for the Tories at the moment.

  3. Budweiser

    I wonder if the couple were paid for their story? Perhaps The Mail could help them out – aren’t there no win no fee lawyers out there?

    • cam

      Nope,,,Craigie(remember him?) has got them all on his books,,,he likes the no fee bit and does the no win thing with such style.

  4. Greg72

    If the caravan’s still on HP, would the couple have title to sue? Surely it would be for the HP company to sue?

    Oh, and @ William Fraser, while, of course, you’re perfectly entitled to your political views, it might be better if you stopped making gratuitous comments about diabetes, which is not a very pleasant condition, as I have the misfortune to be well aware.

    • Ed Paisley

      HP agreements normally require that the vehicle is comprehensively insured so that if it is lost or stolen the finance co gets paid.
      Since this couple allowed their insurance to lapse then they owe the finance co all the remaining rentals.

      They have little option but to take it to court and pay the lawyers fees.

    • Monti

      I think your lying?

  5. cam

    The victims of the original crime,whose payment methods and failure to insure become the strands which a cunning lawyer can use to unravel their “case” can take a valuable,if expensive lesson from this.
    They have gone down the route of natural justice and found that there is a legal minefield to negotiate,,,there are many ways to skin a cat.

  6. Geddy Lee

    If they stop the payments, then the onus is on the firm to reposses the caravan, or not.

    Failing that, a group of family and freinds should “persuade” the travellers to get out sharpish.

    this is when the law looks simply stupid.

  7. George Collins

    The Daily Mail exists to cause friction in society: let the little people fight among themselves while the real problems remain untouched.

  8. Brian J

    £300 for a caravan as described would represent what the Scottish Courts refer to as “A Rogue’s Bargain”. A well established term in Scots criminal law which recognises that paying well under value for something is indicative of an appreciation on the part of the buyer that the goods are likey to e stolen. I suspect that officers of Police Scotland would have seized the caravan as stolen property, charged the rogue with reset and let the court sort it out thereafter.

  9. cam

    Would there be grounds for the 22yr old who got off the Hook, to sue for wrongful arrest and claim damages?
    I’m sure a skilful lawyer could build a profitable case,involve European courts,cite institutional racism on the part of the police and sue the previous owners for any health and safety problems within said renovated caravan.
    Surprise surprise,a lawyer wants to apportion blame for a scumbag stealing property, on the police’s failure to trace the criminals and on lack of Legal Aid funding to pay lawyers to talk mince.
    Alice in Wonderland right enough.

  10. cam

    Rangers get a favourable home draw against the mighty Berwick.If steer clear of injuries and play to our full potential, the mercurial rise of the Gers can continue.
    A real revenge match,shades of 67,Battle of Britain.
    Full house,televised world wide,,,it just keeps getting better.

  11. arb urns

    Niall Niall where the if u c kay r you when a gratuitous alienation has clearly taken place……..

    • Mac Tomas

      I think he’s writing a book on the CVA, then he’s working on the tv script for a blockbuster ten part serialization… “CVA…the DIGNIFIED way to screw your creditors”

  12. To be fair Paul the Daily (hate) Mail knows its audience well . The little Englanders with their “some of my best friends are coloured ” attitude . But one thing that you must compliment them on is the Steven Lawrence coverage. This was one paper who led the campaign for justice for the Lawrence family .

  13. According to its own figures the Daily Mail has a circulation of a little under 1.6M. on weekdays.

    On Saturdays the figure rises to almost 2.5M

    The Mail on Sunday has 1.75M or there about.


    I don’t see a date on this link but it’s reasonable to assume that if it’s not current then the figures overall may be a little less, most newspapers have seen significant downturns in sales for all the obvious reasons.

    Worth noting that real readership numbers would outstrip the circulation or sales figure by quite a margin.

    A household or office may pick up a copy of the paper but it becomes available for others to read.

    I’m not certain how these figures are determined, however the Mails ‘Classified Fact sheet’ gives handy multipliers to determine the overall readership.

    2.6: Monday – Friday.
    2: Saturday
    2.8: Sunday.

    This gives readership (with caveats mentioned above)


    4.088M: Monday to Friday.
    5.11M: Saturday.
    4.76M Sunday.

    That’s a lot of readers by any standard though I must confess it’s a group I have yet to find myself in.

    It’s hardly surprising that politicians would take note and try to gain favour or at least avoid conflict with a newspaper with such significant reach.

    The numbers can be broken down further with geographic location, age and gender.

    Without wishing to bore anyone (they can view the figures for themselves) a brief summary would include.

    Women read the Daily Mail a little more than men.

    Age less than 45 years represents around one quarter of the readership.
    Over 45 years represents three quarters.

    Southern readership (southern England) provides 73.3%.
    Northern (England) provides 21.6%

    Scotland, provides 5.1%

    The margin fof error is not given.

    If I were to try to make sense of these numbers to come up with a description of a typical Mail reader then most likely they reside in the southern part of England and have passed middle age or are well on there way to becoming old aged

    The difference between male and female readership looks to be largely insignificant, though I’m open so suggestions.

    The number that bugs me most and which in terms of overall readership looks insignificant, is the Scottish readership.

    Put in context this readership looks a little unusual.

    We know Paul McConville reads the Mail, albeit as a somewhat angry observer.

    Sales of over 91 thousand and readers of 207 thousand look significant in terms of the press reading population of Scotland.

    That the sales and readership numbers tail off the further away from the traditional heartlands of the Mail is not in itself surprising.
    But the number of sales counted in Scotland (small overall) is still something of a puzzle.

    Perhaps the Mail has these numbers wrong or has yet to update them. If not it’s a curiosity that I find difficult to explain.

    The Mail may publish stories and articles which don’t stand up to scrutiny but the readers in the main may well be willing to ignore such shortcomings if they are satisfied that their personal views are supported and such as the are given wider representation.

    People like to read stuff that they like, it saves a lot of time wasted on such mundane ideas as thinking for themselves.

    Perhaps Douglas Adams comic take on human evolution has at it’s heart something telling.

    We are not as smart as we think we are.

    We are in spirit it seems descendants of the Golgafrinchans.

    • Cregganduff

      Are you sure you are still taking your tablets.

    • Steven Brennan

      My wife buys the daily mail every week day to read during her lunch, most days it isn’t even opened until evening.
      She used to buy the record until its coffin on the front page episode, the sun is a rag, i buy the herald so she believes the mail was the next choice for easy reading at lunch.
      I scroll through it most nights but it is shamelessly Tory and anti snp, every single day it has a scaremonger story about Alex Salmond and his party.

  14. Monti

    On the train home from Celtic park, Celtic need to lift the pace a bit which is understandable considering we haven’t played a league game yet.
    We need to get the two Dutch bhoys in the team asap!
    If Kelvin Wilson needs a lift to Nottingham it can be arranged, Samaras brilliant effort again big man, Izzy needs a foot up his erse.
    Apart from the goal, highlight was the female Swedish physio’s, if I was an Elfsborg player I’d be on the treatment table a lot 😀
    Elfsborg were dirty bastards in mu opinion tonight & if we score once over there I think that will be enough, Samaras it’s your gig big man.
    Mo Bangura? Your a W@nk!
    Celtic need to learn to put a clause on a contract that doesn’t allow our own player to play against us! HH!

  15. Back to the daily mail great we song,
    Oh it wouldn’t be surprising if there is to be another rising said the man from the daily mail.

  16. Nice to see a rangers player being allowed to bless himself on the park nice goal too.

  17. dan

    I had to switch off Superboreboard there as I’ve ran out of Tenna Man’s. I was just constantly pishing myself laughing at Sevconian’s coming on and trying to compare the situation with the Jambo’s with their old team’s, disgraceful behaviour, and suggesting that Oldco got a raw deal. I mean, have the Jambo’s withheld players’ PAYE to keep Tynecastle ticking over? No! Have the Jambos withheld VAT in order to trade while insolvent? No! So what’s the beef with these Sevconians? If they would only think (I know that’s a big ask) about how the authorities have contorted themselves to help them out (audited accounts anyone?) they might see they have much to be thankful for. What an ungrateful lot they are!

  18. I hadn’t seen this story until it was repeated briefly in our local Staffordshire and Black County press by the journalist, okay commentator, Peter Rhodes of the Express and Star. (Who unfortunately looks uncannily like the author of this website but without glasses by the way.)
    Anyway as “Human Rights” was mentioned I assumed, like “Health and Safety” that this was a sign that it was likely to be a Daily Mail story – and therefore only based on a a true story. A quick search produced The Forger’s Gazette very early on though lots of others were reporting it too. Eventually I found Paul McConville’s pages which fortunately went into detail on English law on this matter.
    I have now re tweeted it and can’t wait to get back to work next week to try and provoke colleagues – by referring to caravans or travellers or stolen property in some way – so that they refer to this article. On Wednesday my Daily Mail (“I know it’s the Mail but..”) reading colleague will be in and I will be ready.

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