First squatter jailed under new law

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A twenty-one year old man has become the first person to be jailed under the government’s new anti-squatting legislation after pleading guilty to occupying a housing association flat without permission.
The man, who had come to London from Plymouth to seek work was sentenced to twelve weeks in prison and will of course now have a criminal record.
On Saturday 1 September 2012 a new law came into force which makes squatting in a residential building an offence punishable by up to a year in prison or by a fine of up to £5,000.00.
Housing charities have warned that this new legislation may trigger a surge in homelessness as squatters are forced on to the streets in order to avoid a criminal record. The squatters’ rights group Squash (Squatters’ action for secure homes), which campaigned against the new law condemned the sentencing as “deeply disproportionate and unjust.” The charity also commented on how the building had been empty for over one year.
According to the charity the cost of criminalising squatting will be as high as £790m over the next five years and have said on record that in their eyes it is a crime for 930,000 properties to sit empty across the UK.
William Ford, specialist housing and social welfare solicitor at Osborne commented
“With this new law now in force we expect to see a rise in the number of homelessness cases we deal with. The fact is that if you are made homeless through no fault of your own and are considered to be vulnerable, then the local authority has a duty to provide accommodation for you. The issue that local authorities are having is that demand outstrips supply. What this case shows is that magistrates are enforcing this new legislation; however whether it acts as a suitable long-term deterrent is yet to be established”.
If you are currently experiencing housing issues and fear being made homeless please contact William Ford by
Osbornes Solicitors specialist social welfare and housing department is recommended by independent legal directories Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. William is described by Legal 500 as being“deeply committed to his clients”

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