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Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012

Section 144: Offence of squatting in a residential building

786.This section creates a new offence of squatting in a residential building.

787.Subsection (1) sets out the elements of the offence. The offence is committed when a person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as such, the person knows or ought to know that they are a trespasser, and the person is living in the building or intends to live there for any period.

788.Subsection (1)(a) is designed to ensure that only people who enter and remain in the residential building as trespasser will be captured by the offence. It will not cover anybody who entered the building with permission of the property owner, such as a legitimate tenant.

789.Subsection (1)(b) states that the offence will only be committed if the defendant knew or ought to have known he or she was a trespasser.

790.Subsection (1)(c) provides that the trespasser must be living or intending to live in the building for any period. The offence does not apply to people who are in the residential building momentarily or have no intention of living there.

791.Subsection (2) is designed to ensure that the offence is not committed by a person who remains in occupation after the end of a lease or licence.

792.‘Residential building’ is defined in subsection (3).

793.Subsection (4) makes it clear that a defendant who occupied a residential building with the permission (e.g. consent or licence) of a trespasser can, where appropriate, still be considered a trespasser as against the owner or lawful occupier and as such be captured by the offence.

794.The offence will be triable summarily only and will carry a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment, a level 5 fine or both. The maximum penalty of imprisonment will become 51 weeks if section 281(5) of the 1991 Act is commenced.

795.Subsection (7) provides that the offence applies regardless of whether the trespasser entered the property before or after commencement of the section. The offence will therefore apply if having entered the building as a trespasser the person commits the following elements after commencement of the section: they are in the building as a trespasser; they know or ought to know that they are a trespasser, and they are living in the building or intend to live there.

796.Subsection (8) amends section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to give uniformed police officers the power to enter and search premises for the purpose of arresting a person for the offence of squatting in a residential building.

797.Subsection (9) makes a consequential amendment to Schedule 10 to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 by removing a reference to a previous amendment to section 17(3) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

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