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The News Line: News Homeless squatters are ‘criminals’ SQUATTING in a residential building in England and Wales has become a criminal offence, meaning squatters would face six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.

Campaigners warned the new law will criminalise vulnerable people and lead to an increase in rough sleeping.

Currently squatting is treated as a civil matter and homeowners, including councils and housing associations, have to go to a civil court to prove the squatters have trespassed before they can be evicted.

From today, a homeowner can simply complain to the police who can take action and arrest the squatters.

Homeless charity Crisis chief executive Leslie Morphy said the change in law ‘will do nothing to address the underlying reasons why vulnerable people squat in the first place, their homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.

‘Ultimately, the government needs to tackle why homeless people squat in the first place by helping not punishing them.’

Catherine Brogan, from Squatters’ Action for Secure Housing, said: ‘What we need is to tackle the housing crisis and not criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in our society.’

John Holland from the Birmingham Tenants Housing Action Group, said: ‘Having a roof over your head should be a right. Thousands of properties are lying empty. Homelessness is on the rise and these homes could be used to house a family.’

There are some 950,000 empty homes across the UK, 350,000 of which have been vacant for six months or more, according to Empty Homes, a charity working to restore them to residential use.
 
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