News


Guardian Letter: Squatting changes threat to homeless

A letter we co-ordinated was published in todays Guardian here It reads… Winter is a difficult time for the UK’s homeless population (Report, 29 November). We are concerned at both the effect of existing legislation, which has made squatting in residential properties a criminal offence, and the proposals being made by some within the government to extend the law to encompass commercial properties. We fear that any further criminalisation which removes the option of seeking shelter in abandoned and unused commercial property would have disastrous consequences. We wish to remind the government of the tragic death of one homeless person […]

Open letter to Chuka Umunna,Tessa Jowell & Lib Peck

Dear Chuka Umunna, Dame Tessa Jowell and Lib Peck We are writing to you with profound disappointment after reading about a letter you recently signed calling for the further criminalisation of squatting in commercial properties, (the contents of which have now been published in London’s Evening Standard newspaper). We are shocked to see Labour members seeking to criminalise squatters – a group of people that includes some of the most vulnerable people in our society. There is something deeply wrong when Labour is calling on the Tories to punish more poor and vulnerable people. With one of the worst housing […]

Guardian Letter: Government attack on squatting

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jun/17/attack-squatting In September of last year, the government made it a criminal offence to squat unoccupied residential buildings. This move came at a time of a major housing crisis: there are currently around a million unoccupied or empty homes in the UK, and growing homelessness. Squatting is one of Britain’s oldest forms of tenancies, and communities and political movements have grown up around it. There are now signs that the government is seeking to extend this criminalisation beyond the residential sector. As figures and representatives in the trade union and student movements, we are alarmed by the prospect of such […]

Early Day Motion Tabled – Write to your MP

An Early Day Motion has been tabled calling for a repeal of the new anti-squatting law. Please write a letter to your MP or use our template below urging them to sign it. If you don’t know who your MP is you can use TheyWorkForYou website to find out. Dear “Your MP Here”, As your constituent I am writing urging you to sign an Early Day Motion recently tabled that recognises the damage being caused by the new squatting law (Section 144, LASPO) which was brought in on September 1st 2012. The link to the Early Day Motion is here: […]

“The Case Against Section 144″ Press Release

Press Release For immediate release Campaign to repeal new squatting law launched in Parliament Entitled ‘The Case Against Section 144’, SQUASH (Squatters Action for Secure Homes) are launching a new report and campaign in Parliament today. The report’s findings suggest the major concerns regarding criminalisation that arose during the government’s consultation process have been proven right, with homeless and vulnerable people disproportionately affected. No arrests so far have been for squatters displacing anyone from their home, which does suggest that the Criminal Law Act 1977 was sufficient for dealing with squatters – as predicted by many legal experts. The report […]

Homeless Man Prevented From Squatting Dies

We are gutted to bring the extremely sad news that media reports suggest that homeless man Daniel Gauntlett is the first known person to die because of the new squatting law brought in last September which criminalised squatting in residential properties. There may be more people who have been affected in this way but he is the only person we know of for sure. He passed away last Saturday. The news comes exactly 6 months after the introduction of the new law. Daniel Gauntlett tried to find shelter in a boarded up empty bungalow, a residential property under the new […]

Repeal Section 144 Petition – Please Sign

SQUASH are currently busy planning a campaign to repeal section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – the clause which criminalised squatting in residential properties. We aren’t going to say much more than that for now but we have launched a petition which should give you an idea of some of the arguments we will be using. Sign the petition here – it has already received over 1500 signatures in just over a week.

Campaigners condemn “crazy” squatting law after first person jailed

A 21 year-old man today became the first person to be jailed under section 144, the new law to criminalise squatting in residential properties. Campaigners condemned the move as deeply disproportionate and unjust. Two other individuals have also been convicted and one is being held in prison to await sentencing. The three were arrested in a Housing Association property in Pimlico on the 2nd September 2012, the day after section 144 came into force. The building had lain empty for over a year. According to his parents, the young man, Alex Haigh, had come to London seeking job opportunities in […]

Update from Eviction Resistance Network

This round-up is cross-posted from the Eviction Resistance Network blog. We’ve been keeping track of squat related activity since September 1st when squatting in residential building was made illegal. Here’s a quick round up: GLASTONBURY A few days ago we reported that 5 individuals were, to our knowledge, the first to be arrested under the new law. Coincidently, it has also been revealed that proposals to make more emergency accommodation for homeless young people in Somerset have twice been turned down by planners. We understand the Squatters Legal Network are keen to support those arrested. Here’s more information from the […]

Squatting law to commence 1st September

We have just received verification that the new law, criminalising squatting in residential properties will come into effect on September 1st 2012. You can see the commencement order on the government’s website here From the ASS website: Not everyone who is squatting, or considered by others to be squatting, will be affected by the new law, but people will need to be prepared to explain, quite forcefully at times, why they are not affected. The wording of S144 starts: (1)A person commits an offence if— (a) the person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as […]

UK housing crisis worsens, Squash supports the homeless

The Squatters Action for Secure Homes (Squash) campaign today highlighted the increasingly dire housing crisis in the UK, and repeated their argument that squatting was a practical solution to this crisis that should not be criminalised.

So have they banned squatting already?

We have just received verification that the new law, criminalising squatting in residential properties will come into effect on September 1st 2012. You can see the commencement order on the government’s website here From the ASS website: Not everyone who is squatting, or considered by others to be squatting, will be affected by the new law, but people will need to be prepared to explain, quite forcefully at times, why they are not affected. The wording of S144 starts: (1)A person commits an offence if— (a) the person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as […]

Cost of new squatting law could be £790m

A report released today in The Guardian shows that the cost of criminalising squatting could reach £790 million in the first 5 years. ‘Can We Afford to Criminalise Squatting?’ concludes that government plans for criminalisation currently being debated in the House of Lords are “unaffordable” and “that the government has seriously underestimated the financial implications, raising serious questions”. The report is published as proposals to criminalise squatting in residential properties have reached report stage under Clause 136 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill (LASPO) currently passing through the House of Lords. It is expected the House […]

Lords knock coalition squat plan

Last Wednesday the proposed law to criminalise squatting in residential properties was debated in the House of Lords.

This was, in fact, the first time the clause has been properly debated in Parliament since it was proposed.

Time to brief the Lords

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill which includes Clause 145 (previously 136), added at the last-minute, to criminalise squatting in residential buildings is currently passing through the Lords. The bill is at the committee stage, which means the Lords will gradually read through every clause in the Bill, and discuss any amendments to each clause. Any Lord can join the debate, and any Lord can table an amendment. Every amendment will be discussed. Unlike MPs, Lords don’t have constituents. This means that anyone is allowed to contact any Lord – but it’s not always easy. We have […]

All still to play for

The Government have voted through an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, to make squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence, with up to 51 weeks imprisonment. The clause has now moved to the House of Lords where it will face its first proper scrutiny. A second reading took place on the 21st November where a general debate on all aspects of the bill occurred. The bill is still to go to committee stage where a full line by line examination should happen and this stage is yet to be scheduled. You can keep track […]

Mass arrests at Squatters Homelessness Protest ‘undermine democracy’

PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release Mass arrests at Squatters Homelessness Protest ‘undermine democracy’ Late last night police arrested homelessness protesters for attempting to sleep outside Parliament against government plans to criminalise squatting. Hundreds of police were deployed to kettle a ‘mass sleep out’ against a proposed late amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to be voted on today, that would criminalise squatting in residential buildings. After a critical mass bike ride protesters attempted to sleep out on Parliament Green but were surrounded and ordered to disperse under SOCPA. The controversial act – currently being repealed […]

Essential final details for SQUASH action

Here are the essential final details for the Squash action taking place during Parliamentary debates and votes on the criminalisation of squatting – this is our moment! Today and tomorrow Parliament discusses and votes on amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill Clause 26 of the Bill seeks to make squatting in residential buildings illegal. Groups opposing this have tabled amendments to lessen the impact and are detailed here. Squash have called for action to be taken . . o Lobby your MP, call and ask them to oppose the Bill or support these alternative amendments […]

Out of the squats and into the streets

  The Government wants to sneak through the criminalisation of squatting, it will be voted on in Parliament this Tuesday 1st November. Over 95% of responses to the ‘consultation’ on squatting were against further criminalisation, despite this the government is still going ahead with their proposals – effectively bypassing democracy. SQUASH have tried engaging with the democratic processes but despite overwhelming support to not criminalise squatting we have been ignored. Our only rational response now is to call for people to TAKE ACTION. We have been forced into this position. See you on the streets!   MONDAY 31st OCTOBER: CALL […]

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 […]

Campaign lobbies against rush to criminalise

The Government announced yesterday amendments to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill, including a clause to make squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence, with up to 51 weeks imprisonment. They are due to debate and possibly vote on the amendment next Tuesday 1st November in the House of Commons. Yesterday also saw the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) publish their summary of the consultation ‘Options for Dealing with Squatters’ which came to an end on October 5th. There were 2,217 responses and over 90% of responses argued against taking any action on squatting. See this table from the report. The […]

Labour to back government in support of homeowners despite concerns

Labour will support government moves to outlaw squatting despite concerns that changes to trespass laws could leave thousands of homeless people facing year-long prison sentences and fines of up to £5,000, the Guardian has learned. Sources working for the shadow justice minister said they did not think there was any possibility that the new law would affect sit-ins and occupation protests as previously feared, and they would support the change to show their support for homeowners. Under the government’s new proposals, rushed into the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill, it will become a crime to squat in any residential […]

Government ‘bypasses democracy’ to sneak through anti-squatting laws

Press Release For Immediate Release Government ‘bypasses democracy’ to sneak through anti-squatting laws Housing charities, MPs, squatters, property consultants, activists, lawyers and artists have accused the government of sneaking in an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill announced today by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke to “make squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence”. Campaigners say the amendment will not take into account the thousands of consultation responses submitted earlier this month and will not add any further protection to residents. Over the past 3 months the government have been undertaking a consultation process entitled “Options […]

New research concludes criminalisation of squatting would be criminalising the most vulnerable

Squatting: a homelessness issue , the recent report by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) outlines exactly what the title suggests: far from being a criminal justice issue, squatting should be treated as a housing and welfare issue. The research was undertaken on behalf of homelessness charity Crisis, and reveals squatters to be some of the most vulnerable of all homeless people. Some of the key finding were: Squatting was found to be a common amongst homeless people. 40% of those surveyed had squatted at some point, with 6% on any one night. Homeless people squat out […]

Government fails to consider vulnerable groups: Squash calls for extension of consultation on squatting

In a letter to the Ministry of Justice, leading members of housing, homeless, Gypsy and Traveller groups request that the deadline of the consultation is extended and the necessary steps taken to account for the views of ‘hard to reach groups’ who will be affected by the proposals. So far the Government has failed to engage such groups in the consultation process; in the following letter we give an indication of who these groups include, and call on the Government to take a more effective and honest approach to the consultation. Robin Edwards & Yvonne Murray Ministry of Justice 7th […]

Ministers are ‘obscuring the law’ around squatting say lawyers

In a letter to The Guardian, 160 leading lawyers, academics and housing experts state their concern with a recent surge of misleading media stories around squatting, and accuse Government ministers of stirring up public fear around the subject by making statements in regard to these stories that are simply legally wrong. The motives of ministers, as Shiv Malik explains, is no doubt to try and rally sensationalist support for government proposals to criminalise squatting. In particular it is the stories of squatters moving into peoples homes that the signatories of the letter describe as creating ‘fear for homeowners, confusion for […]

Squatting campaigners hail judge’s ruling on empty homes

A judge has ordered that Camden Council must comply with a Freedom of Information request, and make public a list of empty homes in the borough. Housing and squatting campaigners celebrated the landmark judgement, that will have repercussions for the management of council-owned empty property and which puts pressure on the governments controversial plans to criminalise squatting. In her judgement, Judge Fiona Henderson stated that “the public interest lies in putting empty properties back into use,” and rejected claims that squatters are a greater source of anti-social behaviour than rent-paying tenants. She argued that publication of the list would “bring […]

Squash’s guidelines for responding to the consultation

The government’s consultation on the proposed criminalisation of squatting is currently taking place. The consultation is supposed to allow the government to formally take public opinion and suggestions into account.

Here we have provided resources for you to understand it and quickly submit an email response to the government. The deadline is the 5th October 2011.

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 […]

Campaign in motion but government consultation imminent

It was good to meet so many of you at the Squash launch event in May. What a reassuring gathering of people opposed to the criminalisation of squatting, and chaired expertly by John McDonnell, thank you. At the event Catherine Sacks-Jones of Crisis gave a powerful insight into the realities of squatting for the hidden-homeless in England and Wales. Paul Palmer provided the facts about empty properties and the speculators who do well out of them. Yiannis from The Advisory Service for Squatters explained the history of squatting and of tenants rights, including current legislation that sufficiently protects homeowners and […]

Squash campaign launched

The Squash launch event took place at the Houses of Parliament on the 18th of May. Presentations were made by Crisis, the Empty Homes Agency, the Advisory Service for Squatters and Squash. We discussed the squatting population, why this legislation is being put forward, and the financial, juridical and social costs of implementation. Perhaps most alarming were anecdotes about the reality of squatting as a crucial safety net for the most vulnerable members of society. It’s striking that the government’s plans would criminalise those already facing desperate circumstances. All in all, the event proved that there is a broad range […]