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1st Squatter Jailed under new Squatting Law

RMTi | 01.10.2012 04:08 | Free Spaces | Repression | Social Struggles

Yeah, the first jailing under the new Section 144 of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012. I know it's a week or two old now but didn't seem to be up on Indymedia despite it's significance. I put it up last week here but was taken down by IM mods presumably because it was cut/paste from The Guardian. But hey, as no-one else was taking about it and we should be it seemed fine. Ok, so here is a statement from Advisory Service for Squatters instead.

Advisory Service for Squatters Press Statement 27/9/12

Today is a sad day. A young man has been jailed for living in an empty property.

Presumably, like many thousands of people trying to live in London, he couldn’t find somewhere more secure, or couldn’t afford it.

The new law, Section 144 of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012 criminalises homeless people while doing nothing about the speculation, inefficiency and greed that lead to thousands of properties remaining empty and unused.

According to the Evening Standard one man has been jailed for 12 weeks, a woman is awaiting sentencing and a third person was fined £100. They had been living in the property for some time and the owners had taken normal civil procedures to get the property back, and had not felt the need to involve the police.

The new law was brought in against a background of media myths. The Evening Standard today is saying “The law was brought in amid a squatting crisis in London as organised eastern European gangs and other squatters targeted family homes”.

Squatters never target people’s homes, they move into empty properties. Even before the new law was brought in it was illegal to try to squat a property where somebody was living or was intending and needing to live.

The word “home” was used by the media in new and strange ways, meaning buildings that had previously been somebody’s home but had been rented out to other people since.

If the stories printed by the press had been true the police would have intervened and charged the people involved. This did not happen.

Squatting has been widespread in England and Wales, particularly in London, since the late 1960s. It happens throughout the world, including in countries where it is illegal. There is no reason to think it will be going away.

The new law only criminalises trespass in a residential property for the purpose of living there. There are many circumstances where people will be able to squat, to arrange licences with owners, and otherwise find ways to live in properties that would otherwise be empty.

The Advisory Service for Squatters has been in existence for 37 years, advising and supporting squatters and other homeless and vulnerably housed people. We expect to be around for some time to come.

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Haigh Stacked

01.10.2012 07:22

SchNEWS piece on the jailing of Haigh

The first squatter to be sentenced under the new squatting law has been imprisoned for twelve weeks after being arrested in a long-term empty flat in Islington, London on 2nd September.
21-year-old Alex Haigh had been living in the property for a couple of months before the law came into force, along with other squat-mates – two of whom are now facing the strong arm of law too. One received a fine while the other is awaiting sentence and a possible jail term. A long way from media caricatures of long-haired posh drop outs - Alex is an apprentice bricklayer from Plymouth and had moved to London looking for work.
Neighbours had been unaware of the flat being occupied, while the owners, a London housing association, had known and independently started civil proceedings under the old system.
This didn't stop the pigs taking it on themselves to batter down the door and arrest the occupiers – only informing the owners afterwards. Since the government passed the bill, ministers have been urging the Met to come down hard on squatters to act as a 'deterrent'. The government says it expects around 4,200 squatters to be prosecuted each year. What's a few ruined lives when there are vacant buildings at risk of being occupied eh?
Danny Beltane of SNOB(aha) the Brighton squatters association. "This is a far harsher sentence than anyone expected - this smacks of the kind of punitive sentencing handed out after the riots. This is the real class war. How can they justify taking someone from a situation where they were providing for themselves and forcing them into state incarceration at the cost of thousands a week?"

Alex and his friends were arrested around 24 hours before the first raid in Brighton that SchNEWS reported on, though overall the earliest eviction we know about (so far) was of a crew based in Street, Somerset. Despite living there for a couple of months and not causing any problems, bored local cops decided to kick in the door and arrest everyone inside at 9am on Saturday 1st September. If anyone can prove they were nicked under section 144 earlier, we'll send them a free graphics book.
With the wild variations in enforcement – stretching from a friendly bobby asking if you'd mind leaving, to three months inside (for a guilty plea!) – many squatters are looking towards the thousands of vacant commercial and industrial properties. Unsurprisingly the lobbyists behind criminalisation are already pushing for the law to be extended and backbench Tories are lining up to lend the latest bandwagon their support. Chatham MP Tracey Crouch snarled “it's important that we look into [non-residential squatting] and try and outlaw it as soon as possible” – no doubt before retreating to one of her taxpayer funded homes.
For advice and support to help hold on to your home and keep you out of prison you could do worse than the Squatters' Legal Network.

Jo Makepeace
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also this from andy worthington

01.10.2012 08:35

The First Squatter Is Jailed Since Being Homeless Was Criminalised by the Tories:

still squatting

'kin outrage

02.10.2012 16:31



two cops got shot by a burgular!

04.10.2012 05:27

2 coppers got shot dead in manchester, it sort of evens things out a bit!

hahahahahaa-hahaha-ha ho!

king hahaha ho!