SQUASH NewsRound: Issue 1, September 2012

Squash News Round will be a fortnightly event, keeping tabs on articles being posted in MainStream Media (MSM) sources, as well as independent channels (eg IMC, SchNEWS) about squatting, the new law (s.144) and possible new legislation (eg commercial). The aim is to help us all keep tabs and contribute. If you spot any articles of interest, please let us know by emailing: info@squashcampaign.org.

To start out, we’re publishing 2 monthly digests to get us all up to date with everything that’s happened since the start of September. The fortnightly News Round will start at the start of November!

Issue 1: September 2012

Hate Mail and Evil Standard celebrate the incoming s.144 LASPO

On the eve of the new law coming into effect (without much warning), the right-wing press had a field day celebrating the anticipated imprisonment of hundreds of homeless people (31st August):

No surprises from the paper that once backed Oswald Mosley’s British Fascists – the Hate Mail. The article lays into Ms Kennedy’s interview on Radio 4 about how she turned to squatting fleeing domestic abuse. It calls Ms Kennedy, a teacher by trade, “selfish”, “me-centric” and – worst of all – New Labour.

And the Evening Standard treated us to another of their nonsense squatting scare stories, this time about Janice Mason’s dead mother’s house being squatted in Waltham Forest. No word about all the living mothers being thrown onto the streets or into the prisons by the new laws…

“Law criminalising squatting to be challenged in court by cottage dweller”

Welsh woman, Irene Gardiner (49), who squatted an abandoned cottage for 11 years and raised her children there, is testing the new s.144 law in the courts. Like many in her position, she lives in fear of being arrested and imprisoned by the police for squatting in a residential premises. The case is being represented by Leigh Day & Co law firm, claiming a breach of her rights to personal and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Good luck to her.

Arrest of Alex Haigh (21)

First person to be arrested and charged under the new anti-squatting law s.144 of LASPO, along with two other people Michelle Blake (33) and Anthony Ismond (46). Haigh, a homeless apprentice bricklayer from Portsmouth, received a sentence of 12 weeks at Wormwood Scrubs prison. Guardian article quotes Squash and states the £790m figure for the costs of the criminalisation. Crispin Kunt says the MoJ expects to make 4,200 annual prosecutions (stay tuned for the upwards revision of our costs estimate if this case is anything to go by!).

1] Evil Standard 2] Guardian 3] SchNEWS

On the Nearly Legal blog, the commentary below the rather short article is a useful gauge of details about the case of Alex Haigh, the building he was in and opinions about the new law on squatting. Undeniably, most (sane) people feel his sentence was unjust and harsh.

We will of course keep you updated with any info we get about developments in this case. PLEASE remember: if you have contact with the cops over squatting, contact SLN, ASS or us for support.

“Squatters re-open Friern Barnet Library after council closes service”

With the closure of library services across the country, many local groups have taken to squatting their libraries in order to reopen them for the community (eg New Cross). After 7,000 petitions and huge local campaign to keep the Friern Barnet library open, Barnet Council still shut it down; taking direct action a number of activists occupied the commercial premises and reopened it, while the council tries to make possession claims to close it down again. 1] Guardian, 11th September 2] “Reclaim the Community”: IMC London 3] “Brought to Book”: Schnews 4] “Everyone to the Stacks!”: an analysis of the rift between those who buy into the Big Society vs DIY squat movement around organising the library.

“Criminalising squatting hurts the poor and benefits the rich”;

Guardian “Comment is Free” published a piece from us, outlining the SQUASH position on the new law.

“Squatters Rights – what’s not changed”

And finally, Property 118 (blog for the “community” of landlords – oxymoron?) gave us a bit of a scare story claiming that squatters only need to get the landlords details from the Land Registry and make up a fake tenancy agreement to get round s.144. Article is a chummy waffle about how evil squatters are by someone with something to sell; reminds of Landlord Action, who started the ball rolling for the initial “Squatting Consultation” with Mike Weatherley. But maybe we should take their tips?? ;-)