Govt releases plans to criminalise squatting
The government has released proposals to make squatting illegal in residential properties.
Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, announced today that the new proposals would ‘end the misery of home-owners whose properties have been preyed on by squatters.’
The amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill means that anyone found squatting in any residential property would face a year in jail and/or a £5,000 fine.
Mr Clarke said: ‘Far too many people endure the misery, expense and incredible hassle of removing squatters from their property.
‘Hard working homeowners need and deserve a justice system where their rights come first.
‘Our commitment to this new offence will ensure the law is firmly on the side of the homeowner so that quick and decisive action can be taken.’
The amendment is expected to be debated next week but campaigners argue that it will unfairly target vulnerable homeless people.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: ‘They squat out of necessity, not choice, in atrocious conditions where they are least likely to be disturbed. These are people that need help – not a year behind bars and a £5,000 fine.’
The proposed change comes as research undertaken by Sheffield Hallam University shows that squatters are among the most vulnerable homeless people and suffer from learning disabilities, mental illness and drug and alcohol problems.