Making squatting illegal fails to address core issue

Making squatting illegal fails to address core issue

Making squatting illegal fails to address core issue

Existing laws should be better enforced says leading High Court Enforcement Agency

Making squatting a criminal offence will stretch an already over stretched police force, overburden the courts, and result in little more than a slap on the wrist for the offender, according to a leading High Court Enforcement Agency.

Most importantly, it will make little or no impression on the ‘professional’ squatter, nor solve the issue of evicting them from site says Claire Sandbrook, one of only a handful of High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) in the UK and CEO of Shergroup.

What is required instead, she argues, is to enforce the existing powers more rigorously, simplify the court application process still further, and accelerate the time taken to be granted an order to evict: “The public would be better served by having a process that enables the necessary orders to be obtained and passed on to HCEOs for enforcement within a couple of days, not the weeks it takes presently,” she says.

“The actions necessary to remove squatters would use huge amounts of police time and resources, and impose further demands on a criminal courts system that is already stretched to breaking point,” she says. “And fundamentally, it still wouldn’t make any difference.”

Claire believes that as well as the bottlenecks in the courts, there are also practical issues that are being naively overlooked: “The police have more important issues, and are not necessarily the best agency to deal with many of the environments our Officers come across every day,” she says.

“Evicting a squatter who has buried themselves underground or attached themselves to a high scaffold or tree requires a range of skill-sets that go far beyond what should be or could be expected of our police service.

“Indeed it is often forgotten that with evictions currently, the police are actually under the control of the HCEO and have a legal duty to assist the HCEO in the enforcement of the order.

“Yes it is time to get tough on squatters,” she concludes. “But making it illegal is not the answer. The Government has not thought through the consequences of their actions, and thinking ‘smarter’ would be more beneficial in this case than simply thinking tougher.”