Squatters face prison sentences
31 Aug 2012 0

Squatting has today become a criminal offence in England and Wales, with ministers declaring the move will help protect hard-working homeowners.

So-called ‘squatters’ rights’ are to be scrapped, with persistent offenders facing the prospect of up to six months in prison, a £5,000 fine or both.

Justice minister Crispin Blunt said the new law will put an end to the untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs that squatters have caused homeowners.

However, homeless charity Crisis believes the new law – which follows a Government consultation on the issue last summer – would criminalise vulnerable people, leaving them locked up or facing a fine they cannot afford to pay.

Leslie Morphy, the charity’s chief executive, said: “There was already legal provision that police and councils could, and should, have used to remove individuals in the rare instances of squatting in someone’s home.”

“And the new law also applies to empty homes – of which there are 720,000 in England alone, including many that are dilapidated and abandoned – criminalising homeless people when they are just trying to find a place off the streets.”