Archive for September, 2012

Squatting – it can be a crime

In our news letter, December 2009 we considered the Supreme Court’s invitation for a re-examination of the law relating to trespassing.  Squatting in a residential building has now become a criminal offence from 1 September 2012 if the offender entered the building as a trespasser, knew or ought to know he/she is a trespasser and is living in the building or intends to live there for any period (s144 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012).  A ‘building’ includes any structure or part of a structure (including a temporary or moveable structure).  It is ‘residential’ if it is designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live.  Summary conviction of the offence can lead to a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 51 weeks and/or a maximum fine of £5,000.

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt states on the Ministry of Justice website “For too long squatters have had the justice system on the run and have caused homeowners untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs.  Not any more.  Hard working homeowners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first – this new offence will ensure the police and other agencies can take quick and decisive action to deal with the misery of squatting.”

One has to have sympathy with the police who will be required to enforce this new law.  Other groups too have expressed concern.  Owners of property not defined as residential believe the instances of squatting in commercial property will increase.  Those supporting the homeless believe fining or imprisoning squatters will not improve their position.  Leslie Murphy of Crisis is reported as saying “Ultimately the Government needs to tackle why homeless people squat in the first place by helping not punishing them.”

Trespassing in buildings not classed as residential will remain a civil offence.

Contact Hatherleigh Training if you wish to hear more.