|In today’s’ update from Squash . . .
- Government amend Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill to criminalise squatting
- Ministry of Justice release summary of consultation ‘Options for Dealing with Squatters’
Yesterdays’ announcements regarding squatting
The Government announced yesterday their 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 MoJ recognised “that the statistical weight of responses was therefore against taking any action on squatting” but stated that they ‘have taken a qualitative rather than quantitative approach because 1,990 responses (i.e. almost 90 per cent of the total) were received in support of a campaign organised by Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes.
The full summary of the consultation can be found here.
Recognising your impact
Despite the Governments clear determination to criminalise squatting as part of what feels like a master plan to exacerbate our housing crisis, it is clear that the number of responses opposing any criminalisation by a wide range of people for a wide range of reasons played a large part in limiting the Governments enclosures and reducing the impact of new laws. Crispin Blunt wrote in his foreword to the Summary of Responses, ‘Stopping short of criminalising squatting in non-residential buildings represents a balanced compromise.’, pinch of salt, anyone?
The amendment states that making squatting in residential building a criminal offence will “end the misery of home-owners whose properties have been preyed on by squatters”. However strong legislation already exists to protect residents from having there home squatted. Last month 160 leading legal figures wrote an open letter which was published in The Guardian explaining that under Section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 it is already a criminal offence to squat someone’s home.
So what can be done?
Lobby your MP
It is worth contacting your MP asking that they support the amendments detailed below, by signing them once they have been tabled. You can contact your MP easily here http://www.theyworkforyou.com/
Better still, book an appointmet to meet them in their parliamentary or constituency office or open surgery’s.
This is how you can suggest they vote . . .
Option 1 – oppose the amended clause that criminalises squatting in residential buildings during next week’s debates and votes,
we have advice on the SQUASH website for how to do this
Option 2 – support Crisis’ alternative amendment to ‘New Clause 26’
the following amendments aim to reduce the impact on the squatter-homeless and create a disincentive to leave residential property empty long term;
– That the law only covers residential property left empty for less than 6 months.
– That the offence is not applicable in cases where the person is a care leaver or who has in the previous year been registered homeless/ at risk.
Join Squash on Monday and Tuesday outside Parliament to make our presence felt. Details on this will follow later today
Take action wherever you are to show them how stupid it is to put squatters on the streets.
Oh and, spread the word!
Squatter Action for Secure Homes
firstname.lastname@example.org 07895 107 544