I was out and about a couple of weeks ago and just happened to be listening to the radio when I came across a man called Damian Le Bas.

He was guest editor on Radio 5 Live’s Afternoon Edition show and had posed the question: “Why do some people think it’s OK to be prejudiced against gipsies?”

Mr Le Bas, a member of the Roma community, is a former editor of the Travellers’ Times and has devoted himself to defending the traditions and lifestyle of Travellers. Now a writer and film-maker, he has been exploring Britain’s stopping places – the sites where Travellers traditionally pulled over – and the journey has become the subject of his first book.

In a Guardian article, Le Bas explained what the Gipsy reality entailed. He said: “It is partly composed of fairgrounds and showgrounds, picturesque lakeside halts, sheltered commons, bright heaths. But it also comprised frozen copses and hilltops. Old maintenance roads with potholes and bad light. Scrapyards. Council waste ground. Lay-bys near the edges of tips. Slag-heaps and drained marshes. Fen ends. Chalk pits, yards and quarries.

“These are the stopping places, these fringes and in-between places. They are the places that nobody lives except Travellers.

“They are the old nomads’ haunts of the island. Many are smashed and built over. Some – magically – are still more or less just as they were in centuries long past.”

The disappearance of the traditional stopping places, forcing Travellers to find other places to stay, is at the heart of the disconnect between them and the settled community.

According to Cheshire West and Chester Council: “There are not enough authorised places to stop; groups may be attending a family wedding or funeral in the area, or travelling through to one of the many horse fairs and need to stop. These are called unauthorised encampments.

“The Government defines these as ‘encampments of caravans and/or other vehicles on land without the landowner or occupier’s consent’. Trespass is a civil rather than criminal offence.” The solution, according to the council’s website, is to provide a permanent site and transit sites for short stays.

Interestingly, the council’s ‘Information about Gypsies and Travellers’ web page deals with crime and anti-social behaviour stating: “It should be remembered that individuals not communities commit crimes. There is no evidence there are a disproportionate number of offenders within Gipsy and Traveller communities as opposed to any other communities. The police service has learned from past experience that it is wrong to create stereotypes that link particular crimes with ethnic or social groups.”

But what is the reaction when you see stories about the ransacking of the Thwaites Brewery in Blackburn last month when about £100,000 of damage was caused by a group of around 100 travellers?

Thwaites said the site was left in a ‘disgusting mess’ and it was forced to pour away 1,700 pints of beer in case of contamination.

The group left the site two days later after negotiations and an ‘aggressive stand-off’ with police.

The company later criticised police for not acting sooner when the group moved onto the site.

Thwaites previously said it had been ‘effectively evicted’ by the travellers from its office.

And from personal experience, I have witnessed travellers moving on to private land near where I work, only leaving after a court order has been obtained at considerable cost to the landowner.

I have seen lampposts and water mains tapped into, damage to buildings and rubbish left behind. So the answer to the question is of course it is not OK to be prejudiced against Gipsies, but it is OK to be annoyed by crime and anti-social behaviour, whoever commits it.

By Guardian columnist The Fly in the Ointment