Update on UK Squat Criminalisation

Nieuws, gepost door: brighton.squat.net op 26/06/2012 06:11:39

Wanneer: 26/06/2012 - 22:07

A short update on the squat criminalisation process in the UK.

From the summer 2012 issue of The Land - an occasional magazine about land rights - http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/issue/land-issue-12-summer-2012

With an irony no doubt lost on most of those who claim to rule us, the
Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act received Royal
Assent on May 1, 2012. At least Labour peer Lord Bach said it was "bad
day for the British justice system".

This terrible piece of legislation will cut £350 million from the legal
aid budget, no doubt harming the chance of the less privileged members of
society to have access to justice on important issues such as housing,
immigration and welfare.

In addition, clause 145 will criminalise squatting in residential
buildings. In the eyes of some police officers, for example those who
tasered their way through an eviction in Barnes recently, this means that
squatting has been criminalised already. This is simply not true.
Squatting is still legal, and the challenges to the new legislation will
no doubt carry on for months if not years. There will certainly be
questions as to what 'residential' means in this context and
clarifications required under human rights law.

A further question would be whether the police can actually be bothered to
employ the new powers of arrest. In the Netherlands, where squatting was
criminalised in October 2010, the law has only really been applied in
Amsterdam and a challenge under EU law means that existing squats still
need to go through a juridical process.

One thinks of Spain, where squatting was criminalised in the mid 1990s,
only to see an upsurge in the number of squats in most major cities. After
some early test cases, the law has proved unenforceable: no-one has been
charged with the offence and squatting continues unabated.

The simple fact is that if there are empty, unused properties, they will
be requisitioned and used by all kinds of people for sorts of reasons –
for example, those who are desperate for housing, those who want to
preserve monumental building, those who want to provide social centres and
venues in a DiY fashion, artists in need of exhibition space, and so on.

In a further irony, SQUASH (Squatters Action for Secure Housing)
commissioned a study (Can We Afford to Criminalise Squatting?) which
demonstrated that if the criminalisation of squatting is implemented, the
cost could be up to £790 million, more than double the figure for cuts
from legal aid mentioned earlier.

The Law Society and the Criminal Bar Association have already commented
that criminalisation is unnecessary. It seems ridiculous that in an age of
austerity the occupation and reuse of emtpy buildings is to be
criminalised rather than lauded. Nevertheless, squatting will continue.

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