S144 Legal Aid SentencingAdmin
Whatever happens, because of this botched and completely unnecessary legislation, there will be a lengthy, expensive (Best received £100,000 in legal fees) and winding process with no certainty of outcome. And there will be more such anomalies. Ancient Roman law gives £400,000 to illegal squatters. Or that`s what you might think, if you think you`ve registered 35 Church Road, Newbury Park, Ilford, on his behalf from entrepreneur Keith Best`s land registry claim report. The latest report from Squatter`s Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) on the impact of criminalising squatting in vacant residential buildings (s144 LASPO) on housing, homelessness, civil liberties and democracy in England and Wales. Fears that criminalizing commercial squatting could be the next political priority have thankfully not materialized. Instead, the UK government appears to be consolidating its position, with reports such as “Evicting Squatters” (2017) from the House of Commons Library suggesting that expanding criminalisation is not a priority. Instead, LASPO is criticized by organizations such as Amnesty International (2016) and The Law Society (2017) for severely restricting “access to justice” for those in need of protection, pressuring the justice system, and creating perverse situations. The Department of Justice (MoJ) claimed the bill would save public finances £350 million over five years, a key justification for its introduction. To date, nothing has been advanced to support this claim, even statistics from the Department of Justice on convictions under section 144 will not be available until 2015.
But what if the squatter`s property is criminal? Can legal action arise from an illegal act? The registrar insisted that this is not possible. If the Registrar is correct, section 144 appears to have abolished prejudicial possession (in terms of actual occupancy of residential property, but not land or other non-residential property) without anyone noticing or discussing it in Parliament. Despite s144, squatters and activists continue to use squats to draw attention to massive inequalities in England and Wales, particularly in terms of housing, homelessness and wasted space. In September 2016, a group occupied the former headquarters of Camelot, a property surveillance company, and renamed it Camesquat. The bold action came under heavy pressure from the company, security and police, but was able to hold out until December. During the cold winter of 2016/17, groups in Oxford and London occupied vacant buildings to house temporary homeless shelters. In Oxford, the group occupied the empty spaces of the university, while the ANAL in London occupied the empty homes of Russian oligarchs. Both actions showed how empty space there is, surrounded by a growing crisis of homelessness on the streets. Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) produced two reports, “The Case Against Section 144” (March 2013) and “Homes, Not Prisons” (April 2015), detailing the shortcomings of Section 144 LASPOA and how the new law disproportionately affects homeless and vulnerable people. Many young people were arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned unnecessarily under the law, while others died as a result of exposure during the winter months. For more information: www.squashcampaign.org/resources/ Our Media`s creative interventions are still relevant, with a number of major publications published in the last 12 months. Perhaps the most important of these was the publication of the 14th edition of the Squatters Handbook in December 2016, the first updated version since Article 144 came into force.
The manual is a practical guide to squats in England and Wales and an essential companion for anyone considering squatting. Squatters of London Action Paper (SLAP) published the seventh issue of its DIY squat zine, homeless magazine Nervemeter published an issue on “Gentrification and Squatting” in June 2016 and Trespass Journal published its first issue in early 2017. Alexander Vasudevan`s “The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting” was published by Verso Books in April 2017 and featured a book review in the Guardian and an interview on BBC Radio Four. Eventually, Interference Archive produced a podcast called “Squatting in London” and Dissident Island conducted a follow-up interview four years after the launch of s144 LASPOA. So what are the prospects for Mr. Best? He got off to a good start, but there are fears that he will fail at the last hurdle. Chief Justice Lord Neuberger, who is as well entrenched in property law as he is, is less cautious about constitutional niceties. As he showed in the Daejan case (see: Supreme Court Goes Against the Law), it is more than likely that Parliament could not have wanted a person to make unexpected profits and therefore will not allow that claimant to make such a fluke. He may think in the sense of implied annulment or an idea that a claim cannot arise from an unlawful act (ex turpi causa non oritur actio).
He can even invoke Roman law, which has the advantage of requiring legal possession before a claim can be made (although it must be said that Best was not criminally cast before LASPO and had already ended his 10-year opposing obsession).