If you read the Guardian today you may have seen a letter, signed by 158 lawyers (including QCs, University Professors and yours truly) about the law relating to squatting.
Lawyers have been watching the government and media make inaccurate pronouncements over the past few months on the ‘law of squatting’ with increasing irritation.
As these inaccurate statements are now being used to support a change in the law, it is about time some publicity was given to the true situation.
The current law on squatting / trespass
- If squatters occupy someone’s home, or somewhere which is about to be occupied as a home, it is ALREADY a criminal offence if the squatters remain after being told this and asked to leave.
- The police can arrest the trespassers, and the ‘displaced residential occupier’ can use reasonable force to enter the property and reasonable force to remove the squatters.
- If you are not a displaced residential occupier, you can still get the squatters out through the courts, usally within a month if you use the ‘normal’ proceedings, or within a few days if you use the special interim possession order.
So if you are a displaced residential occupier and the police refuse to help you get your home back, this is nothing to do with the law being inadequate. It is either because the police have decided not to use their powers or because they don’t realise that they have them.
So why does the government want to change the law?
Its difficult to say. But lets take a look at what the effect of it will be.
- Desperately poor people who have nowhere to go will be turned into criminals if they occupy unused and abandoned property.
- People exercising what is now a legitimate form of political protest by occupying property or land will also be turned into criminals.
Is that what we want?