Press Release: ‘Out of the squats and into the streets’

Press Release

Embargoed for 6.59am, 31st October 2011

‘Out of the squats and into the streets’; squatters sleep out in Central London

Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) who have been leading the campaign against Government plans to criminalise squatting have called for a mass sleep out tonight in Central London. The protest has been organised the night before an amendment (Clause 26) to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to ‘criminalise the squatting of residential properties’ is to be discussed in Parliament. Hundreds are expected to meet at High Street Kensington Tube for 6.30pm before heading to a mystery location and a critical mass bike ride will be meeting up at Waterloo for 7pm. Actions are also being planned in other cities across the country. In Manchester, a group will be meeting at 5.30pm outside Manchester Town Hall.

SQUASH have accused the government of “bypassing democracy” by ignoring the consultation results. The results of the Government consultation, entitled “Options for Dealing With Squatters”, showed 96% of responses argued against taking any action on squatting. The Metropolitan Police submitted a statement saying the law is already “broadly in the right place”. Under Section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 it is already a criminal offence to squat someone’s home. The consultation response recognised “that the statistical weight of responses was therefore against taking any action on squatting”. However, anti-squatting laws are being rushed through only 3 weeks after the consultation has ended.

40% of homeless people have used squatting as a means to gain a roof over their heads. Homeless charity Crisis have proposed an amendment to Clause 26 which aims to reduce the impact on vulnerable people and to reduce buildings being left empty in a housing crisis. This amendment, tabled by John McDonnell, needs support from as many MPs as possible before the scheduled debates and vote on Tuesday 1st November.

SQUASH campaigner Rueben Taylor said:

“We’re sleeping out tonight because if the government amendment passes tomorrow to criminalise squatting in residential properties then thousands of people will be made homeless. It makes no sense for 700,000 properties to be left empty in the middle of a housing crisis.”

John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington said:

“By trying to sneak this amendment through the back door the government are attempting to bypass democracy.”

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 please contact: SQUASH media phone – 07415 516 105 or press@squashcampaign.org

Follow SQUASH on Twitter for action updates: @squash_campaign #StopClause26 Photos can be used from the SQUASH Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/groups/squashmedia/

Notes to Editors

  • SQUASH was founded in the early 90′s; the last time the Tories tried to criminalise squatting. SQUASH re-formed in the face of the latest threat to squatting.