Justice ministry squatting consultation

Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Geneva – 1947


Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and
well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and
medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the
event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack
of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

The Human Right to Adequate Housing The People’s Movement for Human Rights
Education http://www.pdhre.org/rights/housing.html


End of the squat that moved in on the art scene A Brixton block of flats where
the Pogues and Jeremy Deller once lived is being emptied and sold off By Sarah
Morrison – Tuesday, 12 July 2011 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/end-of-the-squat-that-moved-in-on-the-art-scene-2312123.html

A community of squatters that has lived in a set of artists’ flats in south
London for more than 10 years is to be evicted today as part of a larger
clampdown on the unauthorised occupation of the country’s vacant properties.
The local council will pay for “live-in guardians” to look after the
flats until they are sold at auction.

Lambeth Council is to evict about 50 people from Clifton
Mansions, a block of 22 flats in the centre of Brixton that has become known
for housing alternative musicians and artists, including members of the Irish
punk-folk band The Pogues and the Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller.

In an attempt to crack down on “anti-social
behaviour” and provide what councillors call “vital funds” for
the London borough of Lambeth, which has lost £37m of its government subsidy
this year, all squatters at Clifton Mansions will be removed from their homes
by bailiffs and police. The entire road will be sealed off for the eviction………

 Ignore headlines about squatters, government proposals
target Gypsies and travellers- Plans to criminalise trespassing where no damage
has been caused will impact Gypsies, travellers and protestors http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/jul/13/criminalise-squatting-targets-gypsies

The prime minister’s confirmation that the government
will be bringing forward legislation for the criminalisation of trespass and
the proposed removal of removal of legal aid from trespassers in the legal aid,
sentencing and punishment of offenders bill amount to the most significant
changes to the law of trespass in England and Wales for generations.

The media response, carefully directed by spin, has been
to focus on squatting and, all too predictably, on “protecting
homeowners” from squatters. That this response is wholly and perhaps
wilfully inaccurate about the current law is something we’ve addressed before.
Of course, squatting is threatened by the proposals, but the ramifications run
deeper and wider………

 Justice ministry consultation: Options for dealing with
squatters (consultation attached to this email as a PDF) Reference number: CP
12/2011 Open date: 13 July 2011 – Close date: 05 October 2011 This consultation
is aimed at anyone affected by squatters or has experience of using the current
law or procedures to get them evicted.

Squatting usually involves the deliberate entry and
occupation of a building without the consent of the property owner.

The purpose of this consultation is to gather more
information about the extent of problems caused by squatters, and to invite
views on whether, and how, existing criminal and civil mechanisms should be
strengthened to deal with them.

Options for dealing with squatting [PDF 0.17mb]  http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/consultations/options-dealing-with-squatting.pdf

Impact assessment [PDF 0.15mb]  http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/consultations/options-dealing-with-squatting-ia.pdf

Questions [Word 0.13mb] http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/consultations/options-dealing-squatters-questions.doc

Blunt: ending the misery of squatting Ministry of Justice – 13 July 2011 http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/press-releases/moj/newsrelease130711a.htm

A new crime of squatting was proposed today by Justice Minister Crispin Blunt.

Making it an offence for the first time, and abolishing
so-called ‘squatters rights’ are among a range of proposals to deal with the
problem which would protect both home and business owners.

Making squatting an offence for the first time, sending
persistent offenders to prison and abolishing so-called ?squatters rights? are
among a range of proposals put forward as part of a new Government

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said:

‘Far too many people have to endure the misery, expense
and incredible hassle of removing squatters from their property. Hard working
home and business owners need and deserve a justice system where their rights
come first.

‘Today?s consultation is a first step to achieving this.
I am clear that the days of so-called ?squatters? rights? must end and
squatters who break the law receive a proper punishment.’

In the consultation ?Options for dealing with squatting?
the Government puts forward for discussion a number of plans to better protect
home and business owners. These include:

introducing a new criminal offence of squatting, which
could result in a prison sentence for the most persistent offenders; 

* abolishing so called ?squatters? rights? which prevent
legitimate occupiers of commercial property from using force to re-enter their
properties if they have been occupied by squatters;

* expanding existing offences so that business property
owners have the same level of protection as displaced homeowners; and

* working with the enforcement authorities to help ensure
squatters are prosecuted for any other offences they commit ? for example
criminal damage, burglary or using electricity without permission.

 The consultation paper asks for the public?s views on a
range options for overhauling outdated laws, some of which date back to the

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

‘I want to see an end to the misery that squatters cause
and slam the door on their so-called ?rights?, tipping the scales of justice in
favour of the law-abiding homeowner once and for all.

‘We?ve already taken steps to crackdown on this menace,
including publishing guidance for property owners to keep squatters out, and
allocating £100million towards bringing empty homes back into use.

‘So there is no excuse for anyone to bring disruption and
destruction to property owners? lives by squatting, and that?s why it?s vital
we look to take steps to tackle this problem.’

Stephen Cross, Head of Security at Ballymore Group said:

‘It is clear that squatters are costing my company many
thousands of pounds because of direct damage to buildings, the problems caused
to neighbours with loud ?Squat? parties, litter, rubbish and the amount of time
it takes to sort things out – sometimes six to twelve weeks for a court order
to be granted and finally enforced.  This
is almost inevitably expensive with court costs to be borne as well.

‘Proposals to finally tackle the problem of squatting and
to extend rights to commercial property owners are therefore extremely

Legislation will be brought before Parliament following
the conclusion of the consultation, if deemed necessary.

Alongside plans to consult on squatting the Ministry of
Justice also announced last month, as part of its proposals for reform of civil
legal aid, plans to stop squatters getting legal aid to fight eviction. The
Government is clear that legal aid should be targeted at those most in need and
does not consider it sensible for the taxpayer to provide funding for
individuals who have clearly entered and remained on the property or site as a

 Notes to editors

Read the ?Options for dealing with Squatters?
consultation paper It invites views of the general public and interested
parties and includes the following options:

Creating a new offence specifically targeted at
trespassers who occupy other people’s buildings without permission, thereby
criminalising the act of squatting.

Amending section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 so that a
squatter who refuses to leave non-residential property when requested to do so
by the property owner would be guilty of an offence (it is already an offence
for a squatter to refuse to leave residential property when required to do so
by a displaced residential occupier or protected intending occupier of the property).

Amending section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 so that
the offence of using or threatening violence to secure entry to a property
against the will of the people inside does not apply to wider range of property
owners seeking to enter properties which have been occupied by squatters. (The
offence already does not apply to displaced residential occupiers and protected
intending occupiers).

Working with the enforcement authorities to improve
enforcement of existing offences commonly committed by squatters  such as criminal damage or burglary.

Do nothing, but continue with existing criminal and civil
law mechanisms.

Communities and Local Government squatting guidance on
Directgov For further information please call the Ministry of Justice press office
on 020 3334 3536.