A few weeks ago, we heard the tragic news that the new anti-squatting legislation (section 144 of the LASPO bill) had claimed it’s first life. Daniel Gauntlett, a 35 year old homeless man, froze to death in front of an empty, boarded up bungalow in Kent. Reports state that the police prevented him from sheltering in the building by threatening arrest under the new offence of squatting in a residential building. Not wishing to break the law, he gave up hope of getting out of the -2 freeze and bedded down on the porch of the building. As a result, he contracted hypothermia and lost his life. The full article can be read here.
Obviously, this has caused absolute outrage amongst squatters and others who warned the government that vulnerable people would face serious risks if squatting was criminalised. Sadly, those in power did not listen.
Here’s some of the responses to this awful, awful news:
A new website which, quite rightly, points the finger of blame at Mike Weatherly, the morally bankrupt Hove MP who pushed through this inhumane legislation.
Mike Weatherly’s response to claims that he is personally responsible for Daniel Gauntlett’s death can be found here.
SQUASH campaigners wrote an open letter to Weatherly and The Argus to dispel some of the ridiculous misinformation that Weatherly spouts about squatters.
Labour Mp for Hays and Harlington, John Mc Donnell
‘People are being made unnecessarily homeless and very vulnerable people are suffering as a consequence. This legislation was based upon prejudice and has only made matters worse. This new evidence demonstrates so clearly the need to repeal this misguided law.’ John McDonnell MP.
Youtube’s angry taxi driver is reduced to tears in his response.
And finally, a news international blog post here.
Rest in peace Daniel Gauntlett. We will not forget you.
HOMELESS MAN SENTENCED TO 15 WEEKS FOR SHELTERING IN ABANDONED BUILDING
We’re saddened to report another vulnerable person has been criminalised under the new squatting legislation. The news is just in from a Daily Mail article we got forwarded today. It seems that the former soldier, 27, was suffering from alcohol dependency following the breakdown of a relationship and as such had lost his accommodation. He had been sleeping rough until he found a boarded up building to shelter in at night. The article goes on to say that, following a tip off, the police entered the building on the morning of the 31st Jan and, on finding him asleep, gave him 20 minutes to vacate the property. He allegedly refused to leave (we’d guess he probably fell back asleep) and thus was arrested for squatting in a residential property. The outcome? 15 weeks in prison.
This new legislation is continuing to do nothing but show just how cruel and inhumane it is. This individual clearly needed support, not a prison sentence. In his words ”I now sleep in the abandoned cars in King Street. I am an alcoholic and I need alcohol to survive. I have recently started suffering severe fits and if I don’t drink they get worse. I am scared I am going to die”. And this was said to a journalist last August. It would seem there has been a massive failure in getting this man the support he so desperately cried out for.
Other thoughts: I think we’d all agree it’s been pretty chilly for the start of 2013. Wouldn’t you try to find a roof over your head than sleep outside in freezing temperatures? And who was the victim of this ‘crime’? That the police were responding to a ‘tip off’ suggests that it was not the property owner who reported him, more likely a bored, daily mail reading neighbour. And that the police were able to enter though an open door meant he was not attempting to deny anyone access to the property. To us, it seems the only crime that has been committed is not getting the appropriate support to this man who was clearly in need.
For those who can stomach to read the Daily Mail article, here’s the link:
Want to take action against the criminalisation of the vulnerable? Join us in supporting SQUASH with their new campaign to repeal section 144 of the LASPO Act. Sign online and share the e-petition far, far and wide.
Solidarity to all. Keep safe.
With hours left before squatting in a residential property became illegal; a Territorial support group backing up enforcement officers smashed their way into a residential property in Dalston yesterday and unlawfully evicted the building of its many residents.
|TSG and Enforcement Officer
|On arrival at the crime scene we found a group of shocked people standing on the pavement surrounded by their personal possessions. Scheduled eviction date was the 26thof September 2012 and they believed that they would be evicted on this date as stated by the court. One person peddled furiously to Gee street county court where he told court officers of the illegal eviction taking place. After checking court documents it was agreed that this was the case and the eviction should be stopped immediately. When this information was relayed to the officers involved in the on-going eviction they replied ‘Ah well, it’s too late now’….
With full knowledge that the eviction was illegal the police continued on with their work. When we spoke to the police about their actions the feeling on their part was that they were the law. This is not so. The police force are the upholders of law; when this is forgotten we move another step closer to a police state. Thankfully the people evicted yesterday will not have to sleep on the streets. Friends and supporters have taken them in. However, this will not be the case for many other people .
The streets are going to fill with rough sleepers while buildings remain empty for years. To say that a property owner has the right to do anything they like with a building is morally bankrupt. A property owner has a duty of care to the community the property is in .You cannot leave buildings empty for years on end while people are homeless.
|66 Queens Square Bristol, site of Tuesday’s illegal eviction
Disturbing reports yesterday of yet another unlawful eviction having taken place. In the earlier hours of Tuesday morning, members of the Avon and Somerset police force decided to evict a group of young squatters on the grounds that they were ‘trespassing’. They stated that squatting had become illegal and that they now had the power to evict the building.
They didn’t. Section 6 of the criminal law act 1977 still applies; entrance by force or by threat of force to a persons residence is still a criminal offence. The inhabitants of the former building society in Bristol had committed no crime, they are were simply occupying an abandoned building and this is still completely lawful. Although the offence of squatting in residential buildings has been passed, it has not yet been enacted. This means the police have no power at all to evict/arrest under this new offence.
Three complaints have been made against the officers who were involved in this incident. We’ll keep you updated on how these complaints progress. The squatters resquatted the property shorty after the police left and to our knowledge they are still there. Respect!
For more info check the indymedia article:
Posted in autonomous spaces, bailiffs, Bristol, crisis, cuts, demonstration, eviction, homeless, resistance, section 6, shelter, squat, squatters, squatting
These stickers are seen on wheelie bins around Brighton and Hove, the constituency of Mike Wetherly – the MP that initially proposed the criminalisation of squatting. It’s a sign of a profoundly sick society when people are forced to take shelter where others dispose of their rubbish.
Also, the cartoon strip below was the central page feature in London and Scotland’s free magazine for the homeless (thepavement.org) April 2012 edition. What sort of ‘developed country’ are we living in when human lives are being lost in such a horrific way?