legal workshops for squatters

We’ve been doing some legal workshops in different squats around London this month. Thank you to the crews who have already hosted these; hopefully you found them useful.

These cover the basics of both criminal and civil law as they affect squatters. Do you want to find out more about writs of restitution, Interim Possession Orders, police powers of arrest/ stop & search, bailiffs’ powers, avoiding arrest, suing for compensation etc etc?

We usually use a question & answer format, so if you/ your crew have legal questions, and would like us to come and do a workshop with you, let us know.

We’re happy to travel to you, we’ll just need to arrange a date and time that suits your crew as well as us. Email us at sln@aktivix.org or phone/ text us on 0792 576 9858.

 

 

Posted in General | Leave a comment

spotter card project underway!

We want to make

SPOTTER CARDS!

To aid in the identification of bailiffs, security guards, cops, other thugs & agents of darkness…

INFORMATION = POWER

if we know who’s fucking with us we can fight back against them; better defend those who get threatened/ evicted/ arrested; try out legal strategies to stop them etc.

PLEASE SEND PHOTOGRAPHS & FOOTAGE

& ANY OTHER INFO YOU HAVE (NAMES, VEHICLES, ETC)

TO THE SQUATTERS LEGAL NETWORK

sln@aktivix.org.uk

 

What is the Squatters Legal Network doing?

We have been trying to compile information about the ways S144 has been used (and abused) since its creation in September 2012, and about the other legal issues sqautters have been facing over the past year.

We are currently hard at work putting some of these details together into an annual report, which should be available early in 2014.

If you’ve suffered from a dodgy eviction, arrest, assault or threats, and haven’t told us about it yet, please do get in touch. The more info we receive, the better we’ll be able to advise and support other squatters.

We’ve been out and about, sharing our legal knowledge with other squatters, at meetings and in legal workshops, and in different crews’ squats. Over the winter, we’re planning to publish some more information and updates about legal issues: there will be regular updates on this blog, and actual pamphlets available for distribution.

One thing that has been clear:  If you are arrested – for S144 or anything else – sticking to ‘No Comment’ throughout your time at the police station/ any interview is the best strategy. We don’t recommend using duty solicitors, but if you do, and stick to ‘No Comment’, you’ll be able to discuss your case with a decent solicitor before saying anything to the cops.

Decent solicitors

We’re always on the look-out for decent solicitors and barristers who can help with a range of cases. If you know any great squat-sympathetic lawyers, who’ve done a good job on your or a friend’s behalf in the past, please let us know about them!

In London, we are currently recommending:

Hodge Jones and Allen 0765 911 1192 or 0207 874 8300
ITN 0208 522 7707

Both of these firms have experience of the kinds of cases we deal with, and a good track record. If you’re based elsewhere in England/ Wales, please contact us about solicitors who cover your area.

How to contact SLN

Call us on 0792 576 9858

We aim to collect information about how the police use their powers, and how bailiffs and others abuse theirs.
We would really like to hear from you if you get hassle from the police, or anybody else. If you’ve been evicted unlawfully, or arrested, we’d like to help you – put you in touch with decent solicitors – gather evidence – support you through the process of defending yourself/ complaining/ suing the police (and possibly receiving financial compensation in the future).
We work closely with ASS and other groups, but would like to be in closer contact with as many squat crews as possible. Arm yourself with legal knowledge – as well as building barricades – get in touch if you’d like to arrange some legal training/ a legal question & answer session for your crew.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Squatting ≠ Aggravated Trespass

We have recently been made aware of at least three incidents in which occupied buildings were attended by cops who threatened the occupants with arrest and charges of Aggravated Trespass unless they vacate the building.

 

In most squatting cases, like these three, squatters are not committing Aggravated Trespass. Cops accusing them of committing the offence is a tactic that is used against squatters to bully them out of their homes, so we need to be arguing more effectively why the Aggravated Trespass offence does NOT apply to us, and not get threatened out of our buildings. Seeing as bad things always come in threes we thought that it might be useful to take a look at the legislation.

 

When you’re arguing with the cops that you’re not committing aggravated trespass you might need to escalate and ask to speak to a senior officer if the Sergeant you’re speaking to isn’t being convinced.

 

If you or someone you know is arrested note down/remember as many details as possible about the incident such as what the cops said, how many cops where there and their numbers/what station they were from, and say no comment to all questions. Contact us from the station and call a trusted solicitor if you have their details on you or we will try and do so. If you are unable to contact us while being detained, do so as soon as you are released.

 

Now for the wordy bit…

 

Aggravated Trespass is an offence under s68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. There are four elements that need to be proved to convict someone.

 

a- that they trespass on land

b- do some distinct and overt act beyond the trespass itself

c- with the intention by the second act to intimidate, obstruct or disrupt

d- lawful activity which persons are engaging in or about to engage in

on that or adjoining land

 

So, estate agents and housing officers might argue that you are disrupting them from their lawfully activity of showing people around the building but the courts have decided that the offence of Aggravated Trespass cannot take place unless people engaged in a lawful activity are actually physically present at the time of the trespass, so this ruling should exclude the use of the law against people squatting empty buildings (DPP V Tilly 2002, see below for authorities on the other aspects of the offence).

 

It is a further offence under s69 for a trespasser to fail to leave as soon as practical after being given a direction to leave by a constable on the authority of the senior police officer present, if that officer reasonably believes the person to have committed, be committing or intends to commit the s68 offence. Returning within 3 months after being given a direction is also a crime. Both offences have a maximum penalty of 3 month imprisonment and/or a level 4 fine (£2500). This means you would normally be fined a few hundred pounds or get community service if you are unlucky or had a similar previous conviction(s).

 

And for those who are interested, here is the actual legislation:

 

68 Offence of aggravated trespass.

(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.

(2)Activity on any occasion on the part of a person or persons on land is ‘lawful’ for the purposes of this section if he or they may engage in the activity on the land on that occasion without committing an offence or trespassing on the land.

(3)A person guilty of an offence under this section 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.

(5)In this section ‘land’ does not include:

(a)the highways and roads excluded from the application of section 61 by paragraph (b) of the definition of ‘land’ in subsection (9) of that 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.

(2)A direction under subsection (1) above, if not communicated to the persons referred to in subsection (1) by the police officer giving the direction, may be communicated to them by any constable at the scene.

(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.

 

The relevant authorities for arguing that you’re not committing aggravated trespass are as follows…

 

DPP V Barnard 2000 (Need for second act as distinct from the trespass)

 

Ayliffe v DPP 2005 (What is lawful activity)

 

DPP V Tilly 2002 (Lawful activity must be by persons physically present)

 

Capon v DPP 1998 (You can be convicted of s69 even if innocent of s68)

 

 

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Nine squatters imprisoned for eviction resistance at the Ubica, Utrecht

On Tuesday, June 4, the nine detainees arrested after resisting the eviction of the famous squat UBICA in Utrecht, NL, were sentenced to between 4 and 6 weeks imprisonment. In addition, they are liable for a compensation charge of 15,000€.

Anarchist Black Cross Utrecht have called for letters and messages of support and solidarity to be sent to the nine prisoners. The nine prisoners are Denny, Aaron, Skinny, Rogier, Isa, Clyde, NN3, and Michael Sieb. (n.b. NN is a code given to a prisoner/detainee by the prisons in the Netherlands where the individual refuses to give a name or be identified). Please send to;

ANARCHIST BLACK CROSS UTRECHT
Voorstraat 71bis,
3512 AK Utrecht

or email abc@ak-utrecht.nl

Donations/fundraisers to go towards the compensation costs are also welcome – contact ABC Utrecht if you can help.

KRAKEN GAAT DOOR!

Advice on writing to prisoners from Brighton ABC http://www.brightonabc.org.uk/writing.html

Report of the eviction at squat.net [english] http://en.squat.net/2013/05/28/utrecht-netherlands-the-ubica-eviction-a-report/

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Statement from the two Brighton squatters aquitted of s144 charges

From rooftopresistance.squat.net;

Statement At Adjournment of the Trial

Today the squatting trial in Brighton was adjourned until the 24th May as it ran out of time due to extreme faffing.

Two squatters had already had the case against them thrown out of court when the magistrates realised the prosecution hadn’t actually presented any evidence that they lived in the building. And the case against the third squatter looks pretty flimsy.

Toby, one of the freed defendants, said:

“It’s proved to be ridiculous – it’s not even that we were found ‘not guilty’, but that there was absolutely no case to answer. The advice to squatters from this is don’t plead guilty. Presence in a building is not enough, they have to prove with documentary evidence that you actually live there.”

The two acquitted defendants released the following statement:

So far this case shows how ridiculous the new anti-squatting law is. It was badly researched and rushed through parliament based on a hysterical and inaccurate media stereotype. Even the government’s own consultation found that only a few rich landlords saw a need for this law.

Squatting gives people, who don’t have the huge amount of money required to buy their own house, a way of taking control of their living situations without having to go cap in hand to charities, the government or their employer.

In this case we have seen how a security company can use the police and public money as their own private bailiffs. This new law therefore enables the police to arrest and harass people who were simply IN an empty building.

Its better to squat the lot than let homes rot!

To keep up to date with the trial follow @housingwar on twitter.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Squatter Jailed Under New Law

ASS press statement 27/9/12

 

Today is a sad day. A young man has been jailed for living in an empty property.

 

Presumably, like many thousands of people trying to live in London, he couldn’t find somewhere more secure, or couldn’t afford it.

 

The new law, Section 144 of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012 criminalises homeless people while doing nothing about the speculation, inefficiency and greed that lead to thousands of properties remaining empty and unused.

 

According to the Evening Standard one man has been jailed for 12 weeks, a woman is awaiting sentencing and a third person was fined £100. They had been living in the property for some time and the owners had taken normal civil procedures to get the property back, and had not felt the need to involve the police.

 

The new law was brought in against a background of media myths. The Evening Standard today is saying “The law was brought in amid a squatting crisis in London as organised eastern European gangs and other squatters targeted family homes”.

 

Squatters never target people’s homes, they move into empty properties. Even before the new law was brought in it was illegal to try to squat a property where somebody was living or was intending and needing to live.

The word “home” was used by the media in new and strange ways, meaning buildings that had previously been somebody’s home but had been rented out to other people since.

 

If the stories printed by the press had been true the police would have intervened and charged the people involved. This did not happen.

 

Squatting has been widespread in England and Wales, particularly in London, since the late 1960s. It happens throughout the world, including in countries where it is illegal. There is no reason to think it will be going away.

The new law only criminalises trespass in a residential property for the purpose of living there. There are many circumstances where people will be able to squat, to arrange licences with owners, and otherwise find ways to live in properties that would otherwise be empty.

 

The Advisory Service for Squatters has been in existence for 37 years, advising and supporting squatters and other homeless and vulnerably housed people. We expect to be around for some time to come.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

The first 3 weeks of S144

News is dribbling in of use of the new anti-squat law, through various routes. Some police forces have tweeted their use of the law but with no confirmation, some councils have proudly announced being the first to use it, all contradicting each one other…

We’re not hearing a lot from the sort of advice agencies we’d expect to be picking up on things, so we need to get the word out more.

One eviction we have heard of, but are trying to get more detail on was a family sub-letting in Enfield. They were arrested and evicted.

We also know of arrests in a pub in Romford. Two people seem to have admitted the charge, despite clearly not breaking the law, but one other was sensible enough not to, and faces charge.

There have definitely been arrests in Brighton and Bristol, but most other police interventions have ended either with the police being persuaded that no offence has taken place, or in the police persuading the occupiers that they should get out or else be nicked.

In one case this happened despite the fact the occupiers were licensees, or at least licensees holding over, and the fact that some of the people threatened with arrest were not living at the property and so not committing any offence. The police then handed the property over to someone with no apparent right to the place, although he reckoned he did.
We need to know more in order to be effective. Please share the contact details of the Squatters Legal Network with any squatters you know who don’t know about us already, and give us any information you have about any use or abuse of the new law.

 

SLN

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Fighting LASPO S144

Section 144 of the LASPO bill came into effect on September the 1st, making squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence. The Advisory Service for Squatters has produced new legal warnings for squatters, including one for  non-residential buildings and a specific one for pubs. Check their website for more info www.squatter.org.uk .

*Be aware that the Section 6 legal warning is now incriminating if you are in a building that is or could be argued to be residential, so it’s best to take them down.*

The Squatters Legal Network will work to track the new law – how it is enforced by the Police and how it is dealt with in the Courts. and will aim to provide legal support to those arrested and charged under the new law. If you or anyone you know has any contact with the Police concerning the new law (LASPO S144) please get in contact with the Squatters Legal Network with as much information as possible. If arrested, as always, we suggest you say NO COMMENT to all questions and during interview.

Below is a list of questions to provide us with the information that we need – email us at sln@aktivix.org with your info and contacts.

 

Address of property involved?

How long have the occupiers been there? Any kind of licence or authorisation?

Who has acted against them? Someone claiming to be an owner? Someone else

Police involvement? Names and badge numbers of any officers? Which police station?

Who does own it? Or have rights to possession

Is it wholly residential?

When did the incident happen? Date and time?

Any other people involved

Was anyone arrested? Do we know who/ what for?

Exact time/ arresting officer?

Contact details for any witnesses to the arrest?

Has anyone been charged? If so, with what?

Have they been granted bail or kept in?

Have any solicitors been contacted/ taken on the case? Contact details for them?

How do we (eg ASS/SLN) contact the occupiers themselves?

Alternative contact details in case they lose their phone?

Any other helpful witnesses who we may want to contact later?

Any other issues/ support needed?

(eg reclaiming possessions, filing complaints etc)

 

 

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Squatting is Still Legal – a short update from the Advisory Service for Squatters

Squatting is still legal

It will remain legal in non-residential properties, but a new law is going through the final farcical stages of parliamentary approval that is meant to make squatting in residential property a crime. The law still needs royal assent and a timetable to come into force, and its effect is not so simple. The wording leaves some space for argument, and there will be human rights challenges.

If you are in residential premises, police would need to have “reasonable suspicion” that you are trespassing, that you know or ought to have known that you are trespassing, that you entered as a trespasser, that you are living or intend to live in the property, and that the property does in fact come under the legal definition of residential.

How interested the police will be in enforcing this new law will vary, leading to arbitrariness and insecurity. Making them understand that a particular squat might not fit the terms of the new law will be a challenge. The experience of ASS is that police prefer to get people to move out under threat of arrest rather than actually have the hassle of arrest, but this will not always be true.

Many people have no choice but to carry on squatting, and many will refuse to be intimidated. Finding empty non-residential property will not always be easy or appropriate.

We are going to need to be more organised and look after each other better. We will need legal back-up available on the street, and people will need help moving quickly and storing their possessions. We need networks, linked up with others resisting evictions and attacks on housing rights.

Advisory Service for Squatters

http://squatter.org.uk/

Posted in General | Leave a comment

The Squatters Legal Network wants YOU!

Everyone agrees- it’s about to explode. Rising rents and shrinking wages, mortgage repossessions and housing benefit cuts, the demolition of social housing to make way for new-build flats for yuppies. Waiting lists for council housing are stagnating further as homeless charities are having their funding slashed. As this situation deepens many will be made homeless and be sleeping on the streets, in hostels or with friends and relatives.

For many people squatting an empty building is the best way to keep a roof over their heads, to be empowered by housing themselves and contribute to and engage in a dynamic, supportive community.

Nevertheless, the current government are close to realising a project that has been ongoing for decades – the complete criminalisation of squatting and occupation of buildings. Current proposals suggest up to a year in prison for someone convicted under the new law. Of course, as many squatters can confirm, we are already criminalised and are subject to intimidation, wrongful arrest, and violent and illegal eviction by police, bailiffs and hired thugs. If we’re to better fight arrest and imprisonment we need to better understand how we can fight them.

The Squatters Legal Network is a group of individuals organising to provide ourselves and other squatters with legal advice and information, workshops, skillshares and arrestee support. We need to organise to meet the challenges that the looming criminalisation will give squatters, but this support is also needed now. A mutual aid network can only be the sum of its parts, so get in contact if you’d like to get involved.

The government want to protect property owners when they keep their properties empty, to speculate on them, to fuel regeneration and gentrification and to profit from emptiness when there are people sleeping on the street. No matter which laws they make people will continue to squat – to house themselves, to create autonomous social spaces and to protest, contest and liberate buildings. In doing so they will face persecution and prosecution, and we must support one another in every aspect of what that will entail.

WHATEVER THEY SAY SQUATTING WILL STAY!

sln@aktivix.org

p.s. Follow the progress of the Bill that the current attempt to criminalise squattting has been strapped on to here http://bit.ly/vcIAh0 . The Bill itself is bad news as it plans to cut legal aid for large groups of people, one of whom could be newly criminalised squatters, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

 

Posted in General | Leave a comment