First man jailed under new squatting laws after occupying housing association flat
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing
First squatter jailed under new law after occupying housing association flat
A 21-year-old man arrested at a housing association flat in central London has become the first person to be jailed under the new anti-squatting laws.
Alex Haigh, originally from Plymouth, was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to occupying the Pimlico flat without permission. The Crown Prosecution Service has since confirmed that he is the first person to receive a custodial sentence as a result of the new legislation, which came into force at the start of September.
Squatters' rights campaigners condemned the move as "deeply disproportionate and unjust". Two other individuals have also been convicted and one is being held in prison to await sentencing.
The three were arrested in the housing association property on September 2. The building had been empty for over a year. According to his parents, Haigh had come to London seeking job opportunities in July.
Rueben Taylor, from Squash (Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes), said: “This marks a dark day for our country, as a young vulnerable person is being sent to prison simply for trying to keep a roof over his head.
"The real crime is the 930,000 properties sitting empty across the UK, not the people who are bringing these back into use. This crazy law is aggressively punishing the victims of our housing crisis, at massive cost to the taxpayer.”
A MoJ spokesperson said: "For too long squatters have been playing the justice system and have caused homeowners untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs.
"It is extremely encouraging that the new criminal offence of squatting in a residential building, which came into effect at the beginning of this month, is enabling the police and other agencies to take quick and decisive action to protect homeowners against squatting."
READ NEXT »