From SQUASH Campaign
Housing charities, MPs, squatters, property consultants, activists, lawyers and artists have accused the coalition government of sneaking in an amendment to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill announced on Wednesday 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 for Dealing with squatters” which came to an end on October 5th. Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) have accused the government of “ignoring the consultation” by rushing through anti-squatting laws only 3 weeks after the consultation has ended. The squatting consultation response has just been published. 90% of responses argued against taking any action on squatting. Of a total of 2217 responses, 2126 were from people concerned about the impact of criminalising squatting. The consultation response recognised “that the statistical weight of responses was therefore against taking any action on squatting”.
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.
SQUASH spokesperson Paul Reynolds, said:
“ This amendment will criminalise the homeless in the middle of a housing crisis who use squatting as the last remaining option to keep a roof over their heads.”
John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington said:
“By trying to sneak this amendment through the back door the government are attempting to bypass democracy. There was over 2,200 responses to the consultation on squatting so there is no way the government could have acknowledged all the evidence”.
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