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The Case Against Section 144

The Case Against section 144

SQUASH has collected and analysed information to produce a six-month impact analysis of the criminalisation of squatting in residential properties (S144, Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, 2012). Relevant literature and reports on the current housing crisis, empty properties, homelessness and squatting in England and Wales have been used to provide a context for a wider analysis of the after-effects of S144. The report is divided into four key sections, namely:

1] Undemocratic: the process that led to this new criminal law

2] Unjust: exposing the irrefutable link between squatting and homelessness,

3] Unnecessary: the adequacy of the Criminal Law Act 1977, concerns about the enforcement and the lack of data being collected.

4] Unaffordable: taking into account direct (e.g. evictions, arrests and prosecutions) and indirect (e.g. rehabilitation and housing benefits) enforcement costs.

Download the report (PDF 890kb)

 

 

Can We Afford To Criminalise Squatting? SQUASH has collected and analysed information regarding the current housing crisis, empty properties and squatting in order to assess the financial implications of criminalising squatting in England and Wales, through Clause 136 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. Can We Afford to Criminalise Squatting? shows that the cost of criminalising squatting could reach £790 million in the first 5 years. This would more than wipe out the £350m savings intended to be made by the Legal Aid Bill it comes in. Download PDF 400kb »
SQUASH Clause 136 Lords Report Stage Amendments briefing. Download PDF 90kb »
Criminalising the Vulnerable: Why we can’t criminalise our way out of a housing crisis. SQUASH parliamentary briefing. An outline of the problems surrounding the proposed criminalisation of squatting. This was presented in Parliament at the public launch of the Squash campaign 18 May 2011. Download PDF 1.9mb »
Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, Clause 136: Lords Briefing Summary (2 pages) SQUASH is concerned about the impacts of criminalising squatting in residential properties on homeless and vulnerable people, as proposed by Clause 136, formerly 130. We believe that it is unjust, unnecessary, and unaffordable, and call on the Lords to oppose its inclusion in the Bill. Download PDF 110kb »
Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, Clause 130: Full Lords Briefing (10 pages) SQUASH is deeply concerned about the impacts of criminalising squatting in residential properties on homeless and vulnerable people, as proposed by Clause 130. We believe that it is unjust, unnecessary, and unaffordable, and call on the Lords to oppose its inclusion in the Bill. Download PDF 180kb »
SQUASH response to government consultation on squatting Download PDF 140kb »

 

SQUASH Frequently Asked Questions Download PDF 86kb »

 

SQUASH factsheet Download PDF 95kb »
Ordered Out: Public Order and Housing Chaos A briefing on the effects of The Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill on the rights of squatters, tenants and the homeless. Published in 1994. Download PDF 7.1mb »
A Crime to be Homeless Squash publication from 1994. A briefing on the criminalisation of squatting. Download pdf 2.2mb »

 

Government publications

Ministry of Justice Response to 2011 Squatting Consultation Paper

Download PDF 0.2mb »

 

Other research

Squatting: a homelessness issue – An evidence review by Crisis, October 2011

The Hidden Truth About Homelessness – Crisis report, May 2011

Liberal Democrat Action for Land Taxation and Economic Reform Squatting Consultation Response “The Conservative Justice Minister Crispin Blunt has launched a consultation which proposes that squatting in all properties should be criminalized. “Surely this is in our best interests? ALTER says not, and has explained why in its answer to the consultation. This change is contrary to the interests of UK taxpayers. It would provide a valuable state funded benefit to wealthy tax avoiders.”

Empty Properties Survey – The University of Nottingham Survey Unit and East Midlands Empty Property Forum, May 2008

Empty Homes Agency Database“737,491 empty homes are currently empty in England according to the 2011 Empty Homes Stats! The latest empty homes statistics show that of these, 300,000 are long-term empty (meaning they have been empty for more than six months).”

Squatting: The Real Story (Chapters 1 – 7) – Book about Squatting history

Colin Ward’s The hidden history of Housing – Explores “aspects of the history of housing, in terms of housing based on local and popular initiative, self-help and mutual aid.”

 

In the media

Media and politicians are misleading about law on squatters The Observer, September 2011

“We are legal academics, solicitors and barristers who practise in housing law acting for landlords, tenants, owners and occupiers. We are concerned that a significant number of recent media reports have stated that squatters who refuse to leave someone’s home are not committing a criminal offence and that a change in the law – such as that proposed by the government – is needed to rectify this situation.

“This is legally incorrect, as the guidance published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in March this year makes clear. We are concerned that such repeated inaccurate reporting of this issue has created fear for homeowners, confusion for the police and ill informed debate among both the public and politicians on reforming the law.”

 

Hackney GP backs squatters fighting eviction from abandoned school Hackney Gazette, July 2011

“When our neighbours started squatting last month, they introduced themselves to us and invited us around to see what they were doing with the building and grounds.

“We were delighted to see that they are taking care of where they are living and considerate of us, their next-door neighbours. For the first time since we have been living here, we have the security of neighbours we can trust.

“I believe that to evict them and use council money to pay security guards to man the gates while the building rots would be criminal, if not in the legal sense, then most certainly morally.” ‘Squatting is the perfect example of the Big Society’ The Independent, May 2011

“Squatters tend to occupy long-term empties often owned by absentee property speculators registered in offshore tax havens. To criminalise squatting would protect only one set of people: the greedy and the powerful who can afford to keep property empty.”

 

Squatting related sites

Squat or Rot – Blog documenting numerous squats, past and present. The great improvements made to buildings and communities by the squatters and their projects is more than evident.