News About Squatting in the UK: Squatting is made criminal

Squatting is still legal in England and Wales but it will soon be a criminal offence to squat in a residential building. Same as Netherlands, it looks like the law is a demonisation of the poor because it is punishing the squatters under the public excuse that squatters are occupying non-abandoned houses (there is as bad squatters as tenants or owners obviously) and they are not punishing owners for leaving their properties empty for decades while thousands of people are struggling to have a decent affordable house to live in.

Here is the report of Squash (Squatters’ actions for secure homes) for more explanations:

So have they banned squatting already?

This post should clarify for anyone confused about where the laws around squatting are right now. The law is currently still the same: it is not a criminal offence to squat a building, it is a civil offence with no risk of conviction for the act of squatting itself.

The House of Lords, on 28th March, during their debates on the clause to criminalise squatting, agreed with the Government to make it a criminal offence to squat in residential buildings. However, the definition of residential buildings is vague, so it could possibly come to include non-residential buildings once enforced. This will be clarified by legal challenges that groups such as the Advisory Service for Squatters and Squash will pursue in the coming months, and by the legal precedent set by the first criminal trials of people for squatting. This is currently what they define as a residential building:

(a) “building” includes any structure or part of a structure (including a temporary or moveable structure), and

(b) a building is “residential” if it is designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live

This Clause is a part of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill and is yet to receive Royal Assent, this is likely to happen on the 9th May. Royal Assent means the Monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of her nation’s parliament, making it a law. After Royal Assent the Secretary of State must commence the law, but prior to commencement the Government must consult and prepare a number of organisations which will be affected by the change in law, these include: National Homeless Advice Service, Citizens Advice, Crisis, Association of Chief Police Officers, Local Authorities.

The consultation prior to commencement could take an unknown quantity of time, and the law will stay the same until it is completed. It is important that this information is understood and that the current law is the only law enforced by Police.

If you are organising and preparing for the coming criminalisation of squatting get in touch with local anti eviction networks and squatter networks, here are but a few: Bristol Housing Action Movement, Squatters Network of Brighton (and Hove actually, Squattastic, North East London Squatters Network, South London Squatters Network, OKasional Cafe, Autonomous London, Kebele, Squatter’s Legal Network. Please get in touch if you have details of more active networks.

If you need legal advice contact the Advisory Service for Squatters – 020 3216 0099

Squatters Network of Brighton (and Hove actually) have called a Squatters Convergence in Brighton Thurs 17th – Sun 20th May 2012, this is a good place to share information and to strengthen networks and resilience.

Whatever they say squatting will stay!

Here it is for the little report, we will keep you in touch whenever the law is activated or not.




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