If it appears that the British government are planning to criminalise the unauthorised occupation of non-residential buildings (such as commercial squatting, protests, occupations), then we urge you to send your Member of Parliament a letter telling them to vote against any such legislation.
To find out who your MP is: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/
To find out why the criminalisation of squatting is harmful, see our “Repeal section 144″ Petition page.
Dear [your MP’s name],
In September 2012, it became a criminal offence to squat unoccupied residential buildings. This move came at a time of a major housing crisis: there are currently around three-quarters of a million empty homes in the UK, and growing homelessness. The criminalisation of squatting has been shown to be impacting disproportionately on vulnerable people, and has already been blamed for at least one death, that of Daniel Gauntlett of hypothermia on the doorstep of an empty bungalow after warnings from police that it would be illegal for him to enter.
There are now signs that the government is seeking to extend this criminalisation beyond the residential sector. I am deeply concerned about the potential impacts on protest and civil liberties in this country. In the response to the last consultation, the government stated:
“Stopping short of criminalising squatting in non-residential buildings represents a balanced compromise … By limiting the offence to the unauthorised occupation of residential buildings, the Government will eliminate the risk that protest activities in non-residential premises such as university buildings are captured by the offence.”
I am concerned that this balance, such as it was, is now being totally overturned. As a letter in the Guardian on the 18th June 2013 made clear, campus and workplace occupations have played a pivotal role in student, worker, and anti-cuts movements. At a time of austerity and a massive assault on the welfare state, it appears that this a government attempt to criminalise resistance by the back door. I urge you to raise these concerns on my behalf, and to do all in your power to ensure that these plans are dropped.