Sunday, 25 March 2012
Options for dealing with squatting...
We're now at the most critical stage of the campaign, our very last chance to stop the criminalisation of squatting. Next Tuesday 20 March, Clause 136 of the Legal-Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) bill will be debated and voted on in the House of Lords. If it's passed, it would sanction a £5000 fine or up to a year in prison for those squatting in residential buildings.
Lobby a Lord
It's more important than ever that you take five minutes to help with the lobbying effort - it could make all the difference.
Find out how to lobby a lord.
Online activism: a twobby
From now right up until the vote next Tuesday we'll be conducting an online twitter-lobby. Why not ask Grant Shapps MP, the Conservative Housing Minister, how he thinks criminalising squatting will help with a housing crisis, or find out why the Law Society oppose criminalisation. Don't forget the hashtag: #stopclause136.
We've tabled four amendments to Clause 136. The first would see the clause set aside altogether (stand part in Lords-speak) and stop the criminalisation of squatting; amendment 3 asks that the cost impacts be properly looked at by the government before the Clause comes into force; and the others would mitigate the effects if it is criminalised.
Next Tuesday, the Lords will have the opportunity to debate these amendments in the House and then vote on them. Here's what we want them to vote on:
Amendment 1 - Clause Stand Part
Clause 136 is unnecessary and this is a central reason for opposing its inclusion in the Bill. Despite media scaremongering, people displaced from their homes by squatters are already fully protected by existing laws.
Amendment 2 – Properties left empty for twelve months or more to be exempt from the new law
Whilst homelessness is rising rapidly, there are almost 1 million buildings lying empty in the UK (Empty Homes Agency).
Amendment 3 - Clause 136 is not commenced until the Secretary of State reports to Parliament with an assessment of its full costs to the public purse
Using government data and a methodology endorsed by a range of academics and legal practitioners, SQUASH have calculated that Clause 136 could cost £790 million over the next 5 years to the taxpayer.
Amendment 4 - Retrospective criminalisation
Section 7 of Clause 136 will criminalise those whose trespass occurred before the legislation was enacted. This sits uneasily with Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits retrospective criminalisation.
Amendment 5 - Defining residential
There is imprecision with regards to the definition of “residential”. To accord with the intention of legislators - the protection of homeowners - this definition should be clarified and restricted to use classes C3 (dwellings, houses, flats, apartments) or C4 (houses of multiple occupation).
See the amendments in full