Squatgeddon?! The Potential Law Change

Tagged as: * culture cuts free_spaces repression social_struggles solidarity
Neighbourhoods:

An overview of the potential criminalsation and/or law change relating to squatting.  (A sort of time line based rant.....)

SQUATGEDDON?! The Potential Law Change

Regarding the potential amendment to or creation of law in relation to the criminalisation of squatting, there has not yet been a Bill (the written proposition) submitted to parliament for consideration. On 7th March an Early Day Motion (EDM 1545) was submitted to parliament by Mike Weatherly, Conservative MP for Hove, sponsored by 5 other MP’s and a further 18 MP’s signed the motion as an endorsement to support the motion that “This house believes that squatting should be criminalised.” Though 23 signatories of a possible 400+ would seem rather on the low side, a majority of EDM’s (60%) get less than 30 signatories.  Many MP’s steer clear of signing up to something in its early stages, in order to hedge their bets. On the other hand it doesn’t really demonstrate a deep and large concern about ‘the squatting problem’. Cabinet ministers nearly never sign EDM’s, unless it’s a broad bland and obvious statement that would make them look stupid not to. EDM’s have been widely criticised as a political function, though it is also maintained that they provide a clear avenue for issues raised in society to be drawn attention to in parliament.  The theory goes that you as a constituent can raise your concerns to your MP who is able to propose public sentiment through the issuing of an EDM, thus a ‘line in’ to policy making.  However even one member of the House of Lords is quoted as saying of EDM’s “one of the reasons I dislike signing them because I feel it is a form of humbuggery, that actually you are deceiving people into thinking you are doing something significant but you are not.”  There have been well over 1000 EDMs in this parliamentary sitting (since the last election) ranging from serious issues to congratulatory notes to staff.  I rather liked the statement I read somewhere that called EDM’s ‘political graffiti’.

 

Though EDM's are not usually granted a debate by the government (whom decide who gets a debate) this one was.  The debate took place in Westminster Hall on 30th March this year. (Link bellow) The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Mr Crispin Blunt was present at the debate to feed back to Mike Weatherly and other ‘concerned’ MP’s (the number of whom you could count on your grubby digits) about progress in this matter.  In his opening statement Mr Weatherly said, “I want to dispel the myth once and for all that homeless people and squatters are one and the same.” He went on to say that they are “organised and frequently menacing” The whole debate was simply a hot, miss-informational, immoral mess and can be ranted at every 3 seconds for its generally erroneous and largely ignorant suppositions and propositions. They also mention the recent publication “A guide to Squatters in your home” Again, erroneous and misleading. It’s more propaganda than information. Crispin Blunt, in response to Mike Weatherley, talked about the direction the government was taking and their initial findings and proposals.  He said the government aimed “To examine the laws to see if they can be strengthened…[as it is] pretty clear where the public are… carrying public support.” He then talks about altering section 6, which, if repealed, could mean it would no longer be an offence to enter into a property without the occupants’ permission and it would no longer be a criminal offence to gain entry if those in physical possession are opposed to entry without permission. It would also no longer be an offence to attempt to enter a property using violence or threatening violence and would therefore the perpetrator would not incur any form of punishment for doing so. This is a supposed attempt to revoke ‘squatters rights’ though it would appear to just revoke the right to physical safety.  Mr Blunt said he was “strongly attracted to this” option. The problem is (other than the overwhelmingly obvious) that Many people use section 6 in property disputes when either a shitty landlord who could, under this scheme, happily wade in with the heavies and drag any tenants out at will with reason or not. In domestic violence cases, an abusive partner could legitimately break back in.  I’m sure you can think of more examples.  To avoid this Section 6 could be amended to exempt only commercial property owners instead.  So if you squat or live in a commercial property it wouldn’t be an offence for the landlord or his agents to pop out the windows and threaten to knock your lights out.  Then he talks about an amendment to section 7, which relates to displaced residential occupiers. Mr Blunt explains it could be amended to include commercial property and thus displaced commercial occupiers could be granted the same rights as displaced residential occupiers in repossessing property.  He said they were examining internally the consequence of the available options (criminalisation or amendment to sections 6 and 7) “insuring that they don’t overlap with other matters such as landlord and tenant matters” All in all the media whipped up a frenzy with ‘they’ll jump in your homes when you’re on holiday’ (which actually doesn’t make you a squatter, it makes you a criminal under DRO laws introduced in 1994) While the government seem to be very keen on strengthening laws on commercial property.   So they’ve done their homework, or at least what they need to justify their position. He said the MOJ intended to “Identify the appropriate legislative vehicle with which..um..er..If legislation is required” (call me cynical, but when you watch the video, it seems clear that Mr Blunt already knows which way they are heading, through his missed out words and stutterings. He then talks about getting a change in law into the statute book as fast as is practical and then adds… “if that is what comes out in our findings.” Towards the end of the debate he states “Regardless of any changes we make to the law in the future (note there is no ‘may’ make in the future) … we need to work closely with enforcement authorities that existing offences are enforced as effectively as possible” Mr Blunt stated the Ministry Of Justice “intend to strengthen the law” and that they would enter an ‘internal agreement processes’ before formally launching a consultation in the summer.  This internal agreement process could effectively mean draft bill, on the quiet.

 

I read this debate as like this:

  • Squatters are not vulnerable, homeless or otherwise negatively impacted by society, ‘fact’. 
  • They are in fact, everything that such venerable journalistic enterprises such as The Evening Standard   and The Daily  Mail says they are. 
  • The government really do intend to strengthen the law and are “determined to tackle” squatting.
  • The government seems very keen to protect commercial properties (shock, horror)

I read the Mr Blunts comments like this:

  • Our favourite idea is altering section 6.
  • Altering section 7 would be cool too, they would seem pretty perfect together because basically you can just criminalise vulnerability and legalise thuggery towards the vulnerable in one foul swoop (hell you can even take their legal aid away so there’s no recourse) and so that could be pretty cheap and majorly deterring. (What will deter you filthy squatters more?! An ickle fine or a slap in the chops by a newly empowered landlord?!)
  • Criminalising it directly? Meh. Sounds expensive, hard to enforce and not as efficient in the end.
  • The trouble is though that it turns out squatting has lots of overlaps with tenants rights and its going to be a bugger to try and change the law in a way that doesn’t get in the way of tenants rights. There again, we’ll just mention that overlap very very very little so hopefully the public doesn’t notice.
  • We could just amend sections 6 and 7 to relate to commercial properties, which would get around a lot of this problem of getting non-scumbags caught up in this and help our super best friends associates in the commercial property world.
  • We’ve already been talking amongst ourselves and when we put out a public consultation we can use it to clear up the loose ends and pursuant details on what we’ve already decided. We could perhaps phrase the questions and select the questions in such a way that really only impacts the justification of the option we will have already chosen.  Anywho’s, we’re on it.
  • You guys are like a dog with a bone though and so we should for sure be making more arrests on the criminal activities that surround squatting…got to be seen to be doing more…..in fact let me drop the police chief a line and let him know about our new, tougher approach.

 

On 28th April there were raids on various squats and homes in London.  I am mentioning it because I think it directly ties in to what is going on.  That or its just a massive royal wedding paranoiac session and even if so, it seems coincidental that the majority of charges were for a squatting related crime.  I.e. Even if the raids were just trying to target some kind of non-existent-giving-a-shit-about-the-royal-wedding, the charges were about squatting and the raids attempted to evict squatters.  The mass arrests for abstraction are almost unheard of in London, even if they are just a coincidence that happened to occur just 4 weeks after the MOJ comments.  At the least I think the arrests surrounding the ‘fringe crimes’ were a good, useful tandem approach to take.  Learning up on the details of how it’s possible to enter a squatted property and charge individuals with abstraction, could fit quite nicely with a cooked up crock of shit designed to discriminate against those whom allegedly just don’t think the same way as the state.  My personal feeling about the raids is well….. Bullshit.  Bull.  Shit.  Pick your kind and cause but it’s BS all right.  An EDM was presented to the house signed by 4 concerned MP’s that reads like this,

“That this House notes with concern that a number of raids of various locations in London were undertaken on 28 April 2011 by the Metropolitan Police in what appears to have been a pre-emptive strike against any potential protestors prior to the Royal wedding the following day; considers that this was a disproportionate response, using large numbers of police officers who would have been better deployed in tackling crime and preventing terrorism; and calls on the Home Secretary and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to provide a report to the House on the planning, execution and outcome of these raids.” 

I’d also like to point out that through my interactions and experiences, and they are limited and fallible so feel free to comment, that it would appear that the heavy, thumpy arm of the law has been felt in Brighton and Hove (Weatherly is from Hove) over recent months around the enforcement of these fringe crimes.  If I was at all conspiracy inclined, I would say that this could have been some kind of testing to see if the strengthening of enforcement around fringe crimes would have an affect on squatting.  The MOJ seemed to like this option for a while and it would seem like they would be interested to see if it also works as sort of a free pass to nab loads of suspected lefties for, well, disagreeing.  But there again I’m not a conspiracist so I’m sure it’s just one joyous conservative coincidence, ey.

On 18th May SQUASH (Squatters Action For Secure Homes) launched with a parliamentary briefing at The Houses Of Parliament. In fact, SQUASH was not so much launched that day as resurrected or reborn (SQUASH fought previous attempts to criminalise squatting in the 90’s and before that too) to fight the latest proposals, which they feel criminalise the vulnerable and insecurely housed “Presentations were made by Crisis, the Empty Homes Agency, the Advisory Service for Squatters and Squash. We discussed the squatting population, why this legislation is being put forward, and the financial, juridical and social costs of implementation….Perhaps most alarming were anecdotes about the reality of squatting as a crucial safety net for the most vulnerable members of society. It’s striking that the government’s plans would criminalise those already facing desperate circumstances…All in all, the event proved that there is a broad range of concerned voices now actively looking at this matter.” SQUASH initially produced a publication called ‘Criminalising The Vulnerable: Why We Can’t Criminalise Our Way Out Of A Housing Crisis’ which was presented to parliament at the parliamentary briefing. Also in May, Crisis released an extensive report entitled ‘The Hidden Truth about Homelessness:  Experiences Of Single Homelessness In England’ which talks about squatters as the hidden homelessness.  It builds upon a March 2004 report Crisis also produced titled ‘Life On The Margins: The Experiences Of Homeless People Living In Squats’.  They are all worth a read… there are links below.  

On July 6th Crisis produced a ‘joint letter on squatting’ to Crispin Blunt and The Ministry Of Justice regarding the potential law reforms. It is signed by 11 charities and organisations that work within homelessness or housing. They write, “As some of the country’s leading homelessness organisations, we therefore felt it important to draw your attention to the fact that amongst the people who squat are many vulnerable homeless people. As a member of the Ministerial Working Group on homelessness, we know you will appreciate the importance of not making the situation worse for some of society’s most vulnerable people by criminalising them….. As you are aware, there are already a range of legal protections available to property owners and we would question whether new ones are needed. Criminalising and prosecuting such vulnerable people cannot be the right approach, carries significant cost implications and does nothing to tackle the problems that cause homeless people to squat in the first place. Instead, we believe the Government should dramatically increase housing supply, continue its work to bring empty homes back into use and must improve the services and support available to homeless people…… Homelessness is already on the rise and with significant cuts to welfare and homelessness services on the horizon; this situation is only set to get worse. More people are likely to face homelessness and we would not want to see them faced with the impossible choice between sleeping on the streets or risking being criminalised simply for trying to put a roof over their head.”

So here we are.  Summer time and the living is…..well, being consulted upon.

This week, on July 13th, the government launched a consultation period to discuss the proposed options it has for ‘dealing with squatting’. The consultation, and this utterly ignorant foreword by Crispin Blunt, was produced a week after he read the previous letter by all the main housing charities (you know, the ones working on the ground, the experts, not the ones with their heads up each others arses…...)  Anyway,

“The Government does not accept the claim that is sometimes made that squatting is a reasonable recourse of the homeless resulting from social deprivation. There are avenues open to those who are genuinely destitute and who need shelter which do not involve occupying somebody else’s property without authority. No matter how compelling or difficult the squatter’s own circumstances, it is wrong that legitimate occupants should be deprived of the use of their property.”

 

Crisis, Shelter and SQUASH all disagree.  So do I.  So should anyone with a brain larger than that of a newt.  Or anyone that has lived in the reality of this world as opposed to boxed off in gilded rooms while whistling with hands over ears. Anyway, the problem with this other than it just being irresponsible, ignorant and immoral is that the campaigns relating to the preservation of squatters rights and secure housing for all include proliferating the notion that there is vulnerability within the squatting community, that squatters are or can be defined as ‘hidden homeless’, and that it is entirely possible to find yourself squatting in a climate that is cutting all that many people need to survive and house themselves securely. The declaration that squatters are not ever ‘vulnerable’ or otherwise pursuing self help housing measures creates a little problem for those trying to, metaphorically, jab a crow bar in the crack of the door that would lead to better understanding and proportionate action or inaction.  What the government is saying is ‘This isn’t up for discussion. We are not concerned about who squatters are, what their needs, capabilities or motivations are, or if they have any connection whatsoever with social deprivation or homelessness.  It’s just plain wrong wrong wrong to be in someone else’s property without their permission given there are other options (*cough cough* way over saturated hostel waiting lists) So what we are consulting on, and it is about us (the Tories) right, because we are going to be the ones proposing the law change, want from you in this consultation isn’t ‘why?’, ‘who’ or anything near a sense of morality or understanding, it’s just HOW. How do we do it?’ After all this is a capitalistic state and as such is concerned primarily with protecting business and financial flow. Everything, even morality and charity, falls under its umbrella. The government are setting the scene for the consultation by saying that ‘given that squatting is not a response to homelessness or deprivation, and that that squatters are choosing this avenue, which is wrong, then squatters should certainly be vilified. These are ‘bad’ people choosing (they love the ‘ we all have absolute and equal choice) to do ‘wrong’ things.’ And who are people who choose to do the wrong things? Scum bags! Get em. The forward by Blunt and rhetoric alone vilifies squatters, now the government is just asking how to criminalise them.  This notion is further enforced when you refer to the questions asked in the consultation, which are loaded and miss directional to say the least.  The consultation will only be open for 12 weeks, the minimum under consultation guidelines.  In truth, this consultation really seeks to 1) Assure the government that the media have done their job and the public is now on side (buying into the overwhelming compilation of absolute tripe, balls, misrepresentation and all out coercion being pummelled into their minds by cash register wielding unscrupulous news agencies) 2) To determine the details of what they have already decided and to consult with implicated parties such as law enforcement and the judicial system and 3) To see if anyone picks up on the tenants rights thing and how much of an impact any law change would have on it, like can they get away with repealing section 6 entirely or are they going to have to just amend it to commercial property. I think the last of his lines say is most concisely “This consultation seeks evidence on the scale of the problem caused by squatters and invites views on a range of options for tackling it….”

On one hand they literally say ‘we have no idea about this social group what so ever… but they are going to be targeted” That’s discrimination.  It is an ignorant and disproportionate reaction to and entire group within society whom no one knows anything about other than they live in properties that are otherwise empty.  No one even knows about the actual kind of empty properties most squatters live in.  The last report 15 years ago or so, accepted by the government, said that something like 75% of squatted properties were council owned. If you need housing and you can’t get it…. Who you gonna call?! The council…. So evicting council property squatters just puts them back into having to be housed, helped, or again dealt with as squatters by…. The council! What I am saying is that theoretically the council looses no money relatively, all in all, through the squatting of their properties. In addition empty council properties left open to squatters are usually not fit for living in, hence them being empty.  So we could, using this info to alter the definition of squatters to be ‘an unknown group in society whom, for whatever reason, live in largely substandard unoccupied property, probably owned by the council’ I could seriously go on all day.  I mean the myths about squatting are infinitesimal and poke you sharply from all of their angles. It’s a proposed criminalization of the vulnerable and the creation and condemnation and criminalisation of the ’other’. It will be that bit more clear that a crime against capitalism is worse than a moral or social crime towards people. If you are not in the system and playing the game nicely then god damn it you will be vilified to the point that you start playing or you are going to be punished and removed altogether, maybe some time in the naughty corner will do it.

From now until October the government will consult with the public about the options. There seems to be some confusion in the squatting community, not to mention some highly justifiable panic.   So far, there is not a legal proposition to change the law.  That means that there has not been a bill presented to parliament to be debated and voted on before potentially being signed into law. What we have right now is a consultation exercise by the Ministry Of Justice to see which of the 5 options it proposes, to take. These are the 5 Options:

·                     Criminalise Squatting

·                     Amend or repeal Section 6

·                     Amend or repeal section 7

·                     Strengthen the enforcement of ‘fringe crimes’

·                     Do Nothing

If any or more than one of the first 3 options were chosen for pursuance, then they would be formally proposed as bill to amend, repeal (revoke) or create law.  For example if, after the consultation, the government decided they wanted to criminalise squatting, i.e. make it a criminal offence to occupy a property that you do not own or do not have formalised right to, then they would write a bill titled something like ‘creation of law to criminalise squatting’ then it would pass through 5 stages in the House Of Commons and 5 in the House Of Lords including a committee stage and report stage in both houses.  It must make it through the gauntlet of these 10 stages with enough support to be voted into law.  It is not always true that once a bill enters parliament it will end up in legislation, they can be chucked out at any stage if they do not gather enough support as we have just seen when the House Of Lords did not support the commons bill on new policing (electing police commissioners and all that).  There may also be a draft bill written before a bill presented to parliament, which gives its proposers time to consult with each other and alter proposals after a consultation to give it its best chances of success. Not all bills are preceded by a draft bill; it depends on the proposed legislation and the outcome of consultations and the perception of the need for watertight justification.

Right now our primary objective should obviously be preventing any of the first 3 options from being followed.  While it is obviously still vital to draw attention to the diversity, complexity and potential vulnerability within the squatting community this consultation has been launched by the government, i.e. its already biased.  We could try to re-educate the government, impress upon them the idea, using the vehicle of this consultation that they have got squatting wrong.  But as I mentioned, all the leading housing charities did that right before the government announced that it would absolutely not accept squatting as a self help measure in homelessness or consider any type of vulnerability on squatters parts. To this end I think anyone and everyone should fill the stupid questionnaire in.  It really just can’t do anything bad to take a few minutes out of your day and respond to the questions in the best way you feel appropriate.  The only other way I see down the avenue of proliferating accurate information is to re-write the narrative of squatting through the media.  At this point I’ll just say this.  The media, particularly the mass media started this, or at least fed the public with the bull in the first place.  So I’m kind of a) sceptical that its possible to be allowed by the mass media to rewrite their story and b) the public are far to overworked, underpaid, misinformed, cut back and taught to justify their own actions by vilifying others to accept that squatters are actually not social pariahs and their living in empty houses (probably with swimming pools) for no money is perfectly fine in a world where everything has a financial marker and where, crucially, ownership, they are told, is everything.

Lets stop trying to assume that the conservative party have any sinew or morality or morsel of reality between them.  It is abundantly obvious that there is a desire to protect wealth through denigration and vilification with little to no moral justification.  These proposals discriminate and the reason that it is so categorically so, is because on one hand the governments are saying ‘we don’t know who they are, their ages, races, family status, level and type of deprivation and vulnerability… literally, we just don’t have a single clue….nor do we want to know’ Yet on the other hand is saying “but who ever they are thy aren’t vulnerable they are “frequently menacing” and we must criminalise a social group we no absolutely nothing about.’

It may make more sense at this stage to draw attention to the overlap with tenant’s rights.  Although this whole thing is ‘squatters, squatters, squatters’ if sections 6 or 7 are repealed or amended or squatting is criminalised (the first 3 options) then squatters, tenants in precarious housing situations, the homeless or those with the infamous ‘unscrupulous’ landlords, could become equally affected by the potential change in legislation. What I suppose I’m saying is lets choose our battles here.  For me, the best reaction as a community to this consultation (not the subject in its entirety) just the consultation, may not be ‘you are criminalising us vulnerable squatters and you don’t know who we are, what we do or where and why we squat’  (cos they just don’t effing give a shit.)  Instead: you are potentially criminalising ANYONE in precarious, unstable, and substandard housing and allowing wealth to assume housing rights. Your actions will lead to the further ghettoisation of cities and rise of poverty and destitution with no legal, moral or financial recourse.’  I’m not saying this as a tactic in the fight or whatever.  Its true.  Really bloody true.  Scarily true.  We all know it too.

What we may have to be careful about though, is the government turning around and saying ‘ok then, to avoid endangering tenants we’ll just change it to commercial owners….See, we tried to help residential landlords too but we jus had to take the business option, the squatters even told us to!’  To be honest I kinda think this is what they’ll be going for.   Amending the law for commercial property would conveniently also include Parties/Benefits and all those demonstrations and sit-ins that took and could take place as a form of demonstration.  We should perhaps err ‘remind’ them that amending Sections 6 and 7 would A) Criminalise a vital form of demonstration and the freedom to demonstrate is a Human Right.  B) All the current arguments still apply because if you make those extra 40,000 people homeless with your freaking hellfare welfare reforms they aint going to necessarily be able to choose which building they use to stop them sleeping rough and their options should not be restricted. C) Many derelict and long-term empty properties rotting, sometimes listed properties (that benefit from occupants living in them doing minor repairs) would fall in this category. D) Potential squatters could ‘target’ council properties and residential properties, pushing the ‘problem’ firmly into the public purse while those partially responsible for the housing crisis bear no brunt E) It could be argued that through desperation as less properties were possible to be squatted, we could see a rise in genuine DRO cases. There simply isn’t enough housing at affordable and sustainable rates for our population as it is.  Simple maths no? And F) Commercial property owners could use the law change to evict commercial tenants in that good old ‘unscrupulous’ style. So… you know the squatted shops in Well Street Market? The shopkeepers had to leave because the owners (The Diocese, The Church) put the prices up and now a giant Tesco’s is just going to swoop down and consume it. So imagine you are a shopkeeper and Tesco tell your landlord they’ll pay him good to buy his property, the shopkeeper would not be able to remain in his shop after being given notice as a form of protest. (Those of which we have seen gather much public support in the past) Also, what if you, the shopkeeper, have a slow month or two because of the recession…Landlord can just kick you out pronto…Oh and look who’s stood behind him with a briefcase ready to rent the now vacant shop…it’s your good friend, Mr Tesco! …Or whoever. I actually thought they may use a change in protest law terrorism laws… to target squatters but they are actually potentially using a change in housing law to clamp down on serious protest.  They’re not daft this lot.

My personal opinion is that the government love the idea of amending section 6, and slapping an amendment onto section 7 seems like a nice whiskey chaser. I think that options 2 and 3 the government have A) Already decided upon B) Loaded the consultation so that it makes this option watertight but aren’t sure of the specifics or rather how much they can get away with and C) Will propose these options as a Bill.  My question is whether they decide to repeal them or amend sections 6 and 7 to specify commercial property owners and the change, if any, that would make to the campaign to oppose it.

If the consultation process leads to the proposition of a Bill to change or amend policy then we could perhaps expect it to enter Parliament anything from a few weeks to a few months after the consultation period closes.  From there it has to pass through the 10 stages I talked about before including committee and report stages in either house. At the moment, we just don’t want it to get to bill stage…. I.e. none of the top three options in any form.  On the other hand, that’s not to say lets stop talking about homelessness, vulnerability, and who squatters are and what their motivations are because the other parties who may come to vote on the issue should be informed, as should the public.  I’m just saying there’s not much point trying to tell the conservatives themselves about these things, i.e. through the consultation, cos they don’t give a what? A crap, a flying shit, a jumping willy with bells on.   But if the proposals make it to bill stage it will be in the hands of all members of parliament and the Lords (not just conservatives) this may be the time to ‘go hard’ on the idea of hidden homelessness, impact on tenants rights, vulnerability, social neglect and the criminalisation of resistance and protest in the hopes that the bill is thrown out through lack of support. Because then there may be people listening who aren’t (necessarily) heinous, narcissistic, wealth-preserving, pigs  idiots.

The future in terms of law making? Well as I mentioned if the conservatives feel they’ve sewn up the seams of their plots enough and propose it as a bill, that could land in the House Of Commons for its first reading (which literally just means ‘Here, is a bill’) anytime after October.  Then there’s getting the bill to ‘Royal Assent’ (after its passed through all stages and is agreed upon, it lands on Queenies desk for her royal approval and thus officially enters law, the statute book ) The time scale on this is wide open, could take anything from a couple of months to 18 months +My feeling would be that if it is proves complicated, which it will, then it will probably take longer… all the details (ya know: the unenforceable, unaffordable, discriminatory bits) will be hard to hash out (or at least I hope they will be). But hell, hopefully it would be thrown out altogether if it even reaches that stage.

In 1991/1992 the then conservative government tried to grab some self-created media heroism by scapegoating and criminalising squatters during a recession in order to protect the capitalistic interests (sound familiar?!) The rhetoric was pretty much he same ‘scumbag, criminal, pisstakers!’ ….and a consultation was launched.  It resulted in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 or at least the part of it pertaining to squatters.  Section 6 was amended to allow displaced residential occupiers or intended residential occupiers (anyone who has a squatter jump into their home while they were out/on holiday/having refurbishments done or those who were about to move in or back in) to break back into there own home and pursuing that type of ‘squatter’ legally as a criminal trespasser, not a civil-matter squatter.  What we can take from this is that it was very similar in the timing, the rhetoric, the bullshit….and thankfully SQUASH were around back then too to squash and push and shout and write. (Go SQUASH)  Back then the cons found it pretty difficult to get over the tenants rights thing too, and no doubt thwarted by the organisations, charities, protestors activists and everything in between, settled on making it criminal to cause another persons homelessness by housing yourself in their home.  To be honest that was necessary.  Kinda morally obvious.  I say that knowing that I have never even heard a whiff of anyone who actually does do that shit. An ASS (Advisory Service for Squatters) representative said on the Dissident Island Radio show recently that she couldn’t think of even one genuine DRO CASE regardless.  Meaning the media just make that shit up.  The media would have you believe that the 1994 law amendment had never happened, talking about the ‘jump in your window while you’re in Majorca’ squatters.   Before the DRO amendments to section 6 in 1994 the media provided that image for the government to be ‘victorious’ against. Now the same media imagery is being used to mislead the public about what squatting law actually is and who squatters actually are. Now they are just working on (perhaps deliberately perhaps just plain ignorantly) how to criminalise ‘the other’ or, as I lovingly refer to us as, ‘the scumbags’:  the activist, the leftie, the artist, the addict, the NGO worker, the dispossessed, the abused, the youth who can’t or wont get a job, the non consumer, the non-conformer….. The list goes on.  Anyone who is not catered for in a capitalistic system and/or this society and also those whom have been completely failed by it.  There is limited hope that the Conservative steam roller will ever give this any thought what so ever…. And I think they’ll put it through to bill stage even if they think it may not be successful just to look like the winged heroes of all those owning more properties than you can count on all digits. 

 

There is hope though.  Oh yes.  We have access to a myriad of ways to resist this bullshit and as a community we are not so blinkered as to only care for our own housing needs but the housing needs and vulnerabilities of all.  There have been all manner of groups established and rekindled to fight the criminalization of those in society whom should be most protected or at least accepted within it.  We see the bigger picture; the growth of the wealth gap, the denial of the means to protest, the social degradation we face with every cut of those greasy scissors.  We have strength in so many forms, not to mention the collective strength. There are groups working on law, media narratives, research, campaigning, activism…. and everything else. What we have as a community of squatters and as a wider community of un-catered for individuals and vulnerably housed is, the passion persuasion….. and fuck it….plain, simple, moral, ethics.

 

Cheers for sticking with the frippin Squatgeddon novella…

 

Here’s to hope and homes for all…

-x-

ALSO: This gigantic blabber has bulged its way out of me over a couple days, after a few months of quite extensive (err hum, perhaps obsessive) reading, researching, saving things in overly organised folders which are clattering up my desktop, meetings etc.  I am in no way a legal expert so free to correct me or comment if you feel its appropriate…. I’d rather disagree but be communicating, than be sat on my hands in silence.

 

 

References/Links

·                     EDM 1545

o   http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-11/1545

 

·                     About EDM’s and their use

o   http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmproced/513/51306.htm

 

·                     First parliamentary debate after EDM 1545 on 30th March (video)

o   http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=8050&st=11:00:12

 

·                     A Guide To Squatters In Your Home

o   http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/advicesquatters

 

·                     Raids in London

o   http://london.indymedia.org/articles/8908

 

·                     Guardian Article – Leaked memo (July 2nd 2011)

o   http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jul/02/eric-pickles-david-cameron-40000-homeless

 

·                     How Parliamentary Bills Work

o   http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/flash-passage-bill/

 

·                     SQUASH Campaign (including parliamentary briefing and publications)

o   http://www.squashcampaign.org/

 

·                     Crisis Report: Experiences Of Homeless People Living In Squats (2004)

o    ‘http://www.crisis.org.uk/publications-search.php?fullitem=132

 

·                     Crisis Report: The Hidden Truth About Homelessness (2011)

o   http://www.crisis.org.uk/publications-search.php?fullitem=310

 

·                     The Consultation on Squatting

o   http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/dealing-with-squatters.htm

 

 

 

 

 

Email Contact email: deciduous.miss@writing.com

Additions

myth dispeller

“I want to dispel the myth once and for all that politicians and human beings are one and the same.”

one little correction

one thing i just noticed on first reading.

The DRO (displaced residential occupier) existed before the 1994 CJA. It appeared in sections 7 & 12 of the 1977 Criminal Law Act. Along with PIOs (protected intended occupiers). So it has always been an offence to squat someone's home if they already live there!

And, surprise surprise, even though this offence has existed for decades longer than you wrote, there are still no known examples of it being used by anyone, anywhere! Because squatters don't squat houses that are already lived in.

Even the media hasn't come up with any real DROs - however much they regurgitate this tired idea. There was one case many years ago: a letter -allegedly from an aggrieved householder whose home has been squatted while they were out - appeared in the 'Times' but on closer inspection it was found to be entirely fabricated.

The new thing that came in after November 1994 (and it was quite a while before the govt published its guidance as to how this new anti-squatting legislation should actually be used) was the IPO, the Interim Possession Order.

but well done for writing such a long and interesting piece

Good Research

Many Thanks!

Very well written article that has inspired me.

I've been squatting for over ten years.

One of the many 'silent' squatters that keep their head down and remain for long periods in a single property.

Yes, time to get organised!

thankyou

I just wanted to say thanks for doing your research because this has been the easiest to read sort-of complete overview of the government's possible new laws about squatting.