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SQUASH campaign calls for repeal of Section 144 anti-squatting laws

Housing rights group Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) have launched a campaign to repeal the Section 144 anti-squatting laws introduced in September last year.

‘The Case Against Section 144’,  highlights major concerns that the legislation has already left homeless and vulnerable people disproportionately affected, with SQUASH positing that the existing Criminal Law Act 1977 was already sufficient for dealing with squatters.

A report complied by the group provides a detailed six-month analysis of the effects of Section 144, and  sets their findings against the wider backdrop of the UK recession, high homelessness rates and current housing crisis.

Since the new law came in, three people have been jailed and 33 arrested, but all cases involved squatters occupying previously empty properties.

And here’s the important bit: none of the arrested had displaced someone from their home.

Andrew Arden QC, a leading expert on housing law, told The Independent that the new law “criminalises the most needy,” adding:

The only difference from the old law is that it wasn’t criminal before, until you were asked to leave,” he said. “It is a superfluous law that criminalises action taken by the most needy whose housing needs are certainly going to worsen.

Reaction to the SQUASH report:

Squatting is what people do when they get desperate, it is not criminal behaviour.
Squatting rises when inequalities increase and housing is not treated as a necessity.
This is a great report – every MP needs to read it.
Professor Danny Dorling

This meticulously researched report confirms what we feared about the effect
of the new laws criminalising squatting. People are being made unnecessarily
homeless and very vulnerable people are suffering as a consequence. This
legislation was based upon prejudice and has only made matters worse. This new
evidence demonstrates so clearly the need to repeal this misguided law.
John Mcdonnell (Labour MP)

A few months after the Government brought in the disgraceful law criminalising
the homeless occupying an empty house we can see that some of the most needy are
indeed suffering in the way that we feared. This is a very useful report that should
make people think hard.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (Lib-Dem Peer)

More info and resources:

• Discuss squatting laws on urban75

The Case Against Section 144 has been published by SQUASH (Squatters Action for Secure Homes) who are campaigning against government plans to criminalise squatting. Online link to full report is here: http:// www.squashcampaign.org/resources/the-case-against-section-144-2/

• Link to repeal section 144 petition: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/ 44597

• Kent Online story about homeless death outside of empty bunglalow: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent_messenger/news/2013/february/28/ frozen_man.aspx

• Mike Weatherley (Tory MP) has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for an extension of the law to include commercial properties: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/912
• A report by Homeless Charity, Crisis, shows that 40% of homeless people have used squatting as a last resort to prevent sleeping rough. http://www.crisis.org.uk/publications-search.php?fullitem=327

Six months, no jail sentences: call for controversial squatter law to be axed [Independent]