Trespass and Aggravated Trespass

All information below is copied and adapted from our good friends in the freebeagles collective


“The act of remaining or entering on land without a right to do so”

Trespass is an act which is not a criminal offence in the UK (at least at the moment) and instead is dealt with under civil law. Usually this means that one person will take another to court and attempt to collect “damages” (money) as compensation, an order for possession of the land (if the other is squatting such land) or an injunction (an order prohibiting certain activities, such as entering a specific piece of land or property).

Trespassing in itself is not illegal, unless you are trying to disrupt a lawful activity (see “aggravated trespass”) or unless it concerns an animal research organisation (see “SOCPA s145”). If you refuse to leave the land when asked by a land-owner or agent of the land-owner, the police may be called. The land-owner or agents can use reasonable force to remove you from the land. Sometimes people are arrested to prevent a breach of the peace simply for refusing to leave land, the police saying that they are provoking the landowner to use violence against them. If you resist the police when they remove you, you may be arrested for obstructing a police officer.

Aggravated Trespass.

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
Section 68 – Offence of aggravated trespass (England, Wales, Scotland, N.I.)

Aggravated trespass is most often used against hunt saboteurs who may have to enter private land in order to try and stop a hunt although it has also been used against other protesters entering sites which don’t belong to them. For example, if activists entered the premises of EDO/MBM in Brighton in order to disrupt work, they could be arrested under section 68.

The Law.

(1)A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or are about to engage in on that or adjoining land, does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect—
(a)of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity,
(b)of obstructing that activity, or
(c)of disrupting that activity.

three months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or both.

Section 69 – Powers to remove persons committing or participating in aggravated trespass.

(1)If the senior police officer present at the scene reasonably believes—
(a)that a person is committing, has committed or intends to commit the offence of aggravated trespass on land; or
(b)that two or more persons are trespassing on land and are present there with the common purpose of intimidating persons so as to deter them from engaging in a lawful activity or of obstructing or disrupting a lawful activity,
he may direct that person or (as the case may be) those persons (or any of them) to leave the land.

(3)If a person knowing that a direction under subsection (1) above has been given which applies to him—
(a)fails to leave the land as soon as practicable, or
(b)having left again enters the land as a trespasser within the period of three months beginning with the day on which the direction was given,
he commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or both.

(4)In proceedings for an offence under subsection (3) it is a defence for the accused to show—
(a)that he was not trespassing on the land, or
(b)that he had a reasonable excuse for failing to leave the land as soon as practicable or, as the case may be, for again entering the land as a trespasser.

Notes and explanation.

Since the Hunting Act became law, many acts of hunting have become unlawful or illegal. The law itself, however, seems to have been written in such a way that it can be interpreted differently by different individuals and it also includes various exemptions – situations in which certain acts of hunting are within the law. See our page on the Hunting Act for more information.

The law states that, to be guilty of an offence of aggravated trespass, you would have to be attempting to disrupt/deter/obstruct a lawful activity taking place on that land. If what the hunt* is doing is not within the law, you (technically) should not be arrested under section 68. You could be arrested or removed from the land by police however if they believe that your actions could amount to or be about to cause a breach of the peace (see “Breach of the Peace” for more information).

*or other organisation/business/corporation

We believe it is important to know what is within and what is against the law so that you are able to argue your side well when you are acting within the law yourself, trying to expose others for breaking the law and to make educated decisions as to if and when it may be effective (and potentially life-saving for another animal) to break the law. However, it is also important to remember that this will not always save you from being arrested.