Consultation launched: Campaigners condemn “criminalisation of the homeless”

The government has announced its consultation into criminalising squatting. Housing charities, MPs, squatters, property consultants, activists, lawyers and artists are working on diverse campaigns to oppose the government plans.

Today, a coalition of groups met in parliament for the second time to discuss opposition to this legislation. In their parliamentary briefing SQUASH outlined how the legislation may be unworkable in law, unenforceable by the police and unaffordable to the public purse. Charity for the homeless, Crisis explained how criminalisation will hurt the most vulnerable people in society, already reeling from the cuts and the recession. An associate of the Empty Homes Agency along with the Advisory Service for Squatters explained that this law is not about protecting homeowners: under Section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 it is already a criminal offence to squat someone’s home so this bill is about property speculators and unscrupulous landlords [1], not owner-occupiers.

A parliamentary briefing[2] by SQUASH on the impacts of criminalisation has been launched. SQUASH last met when it successfully opposed criminalisation in the early 90s by the last conservative government[3]. Now it has reformed to face down the latest attack on the squatting-homeless.

A spokesperson for SQUASH, Paul Reynolds said:

“These proposals would criminalise homeless people in the middle of a housing crisis. Very strong laws already exist to protect the rights of owner occupiers; this bill will only serve the interests of property speculators who are deliberately keeping properties empty simply to up their profits and unscupulous landlords that will abuse these powers to illegally evict tenants.”

John McDonnell Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington said,

“When government is launching major cuts in public services, especially investment in housing and provision for the homeless, it is no time to also introduce measures that criminalise people for trying to keep a roof over their heads.”

He added,

“How does the treasury plan to pay for the additional costs to the police, the courts, prisons, homelessness providers and the housing system with their budgets straining already?”

ENDS

For more information and interviews contact:

press@squashcampaign.org or 07415 516 105

John McDonnell MP

Notes to Editors

* * There are currently 42,000 households that are registered homeless plus another 50,000 who are in temporary and insecure accomodation. It is estimated there is also another half a million people who make up the ‘hidden homeless’. * Through a leaked e-mail it was revealed on Saturday 2nd July that 40,000 extra families are facing homeslessness because of welfare reform: * There are 700,000 empty properties across the UK: From 2009 Empty Homes Figures

[1] Available at

[2] The original SQUASH documents from the early 1990s are available at

[3] Unscrupulous landlords sometimes present tenants as squatters in order to evict them more easily. An extension of these powers to criminalise squatters would undermine tenants rights to a due legal process by empowering unscrupulous landlords to make illegal evictions in this way.