A summary of Part V of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill; relating to aggravated trespass, squatting, travelling, land protests and festival/parties.
Squall 7, Summer 1994, pp. 6-7.
(NB. legal terminology uses the masculine pronouns - he, his and him)
Clauses 56 and 57.
Criminal Sanctions on Simple Trespass.
1) If 2 or more persons are trespassing on land and are present there with the common purpose of residing there for any period, and that reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the owner to ask them to leave and
a) that any of these persons have caused damage to the land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the owner or his agent, or
b) those persons have six or more vehicles with them.
They can be instructed to leave. If they fail to do so as soon as possible or come back on the land within 3 months, they commit a criminal offence punishable with 3 months imprisonment and/or a level 4 fine (£2,500). They may be arrested without warrant. This law counts for owners and local authorities but not land owned jointly by both eg. some village greens.
“Damage” includes the deposit of any substance capable of polluting land.
Clauses 58, 59, 60 & 61.
Criminal Sanctions on Raves.
This section applies to a gathering on land in the open air of 100 or more persons at which amplified music is played at night
If a police officer believes 10 or more people are present on land
a) making preparation for such a gathering
b) waiting for such a gathering
c) attending such a gathering
He may order them to leave with their vehicles and other property. Failure to do so as soon as possible or return to the land within 7 days is a criminal offence punishable by 3 months imprisonment and/or a level 4 fine (£2,500).
The only exempt persons are the owner of the land, any member of his family, any of his agents or anyone whose home is on the land. A police constable may enter the land to ascertain whether a gathering is about to happen, without a warrant.
Any person within a mile radius, believed to be on their way to such a gathering can be stopped and directed not to proceed.
If a person fails to leave the land as soon as possible the court may make an order for forfeiture of any sound equipment. The property will be taken into the possession of the police. Anyone who can prove they own the equipment but was neither present at the gathering or had knowledge that the equipment was to be used there, have 6 months to satisfy the police, alter which the equipment may be destroyed.
Retention and Charges for Seized Property.
Any vehicles seized from trespassers or rave gatherings may be retained until the conclusion of proceedings against the owners. The Secretary of State may regulate the retention, safe keeping, disposal or destruction of such vehicles and prescribe charges for so doing. If the equipment owner does not pay the charges for the confiscation and storage of his equipment, the authorities may retain it “Music” includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.
Clause 63 & 64.
Aggravated Trespass (removal of rights to protest).
A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he goes on to land to
a) intimidate persons engaging in a 'lawful' activity
b) obstruct that activity
c) disrupt that activity
A person guilty of this offence is liable to 3 months imprisonment and/or a level 4 fine (£2,500).
A police officer may order persons to leave land if it is believed that the persons are, have, or intend to commit aggravated trespass. Failure to leave as soon as possible or return within 7 days, is a criminal offence punishable with 3 months imprisonment and/or a level 4 fine.
Criminal Sanctions Against Assemblies.
Changes to the Public Order Act 1986.
If a chief officer of the police reasonably believes that an assembly is intended to be held on land that may cause serious disruption to the community or on land of historical, architectural, archaeological or scientific importance, he may apply to the courts for an injunction on that assembly. This applies to the metropolitan and City of London as well as the rest of the country.
“Assembly” means 20 persons or more.
A person who organises an assembly despite the prohibition order, is guilty of a criminal offence with a punishment of 3 months imprisonment and/or a level 4 fine (£2,500) A person who attends such an event is guilty of a criminal offence punishable by a level 3 fine (£1000)
If a constable believes that someone is on their way to such an assembly, they can stop that person and order them not to proceed.
Any DRO, PIO or anyone acting on their behalf is entitled to use violence to force entry to a property regardless of whether that property is occupied at the time.
Clauses 68 & 69.
Changes to the Criminal Law Act 1977 that widen the definition of protected intended occupiers and leasehold interest
A person is a protected intended occupier if:
1) he has a freehold interest of not less than 2 years still to run (it was previously at least 21 years) and requires the premises for his own occupation and is excluded horn entry. He, or anyone acting on his behalf, must have a written statement expressing such interest in the property, that is signed in front of a justice of the peace or a commissioner of oaths. Anyone can act on his behalf as long as they have the same required paperwork.
2) he has a tenancy of those premises or a licence to occupy those premises granted by a person who fulfills the criteria mentioned in 1) above. And that he requires the premises for his own occupation as a residence and holds a written statement signed by both owner and tenant in front of a justice of the peace or commissioner of oaths. Anyone can act on his behalf as long as they have the same required paperwork.
3) he has a tenancy granted by a public authority and has a statement to that effect issued by that authority, and is excluded from taking up residence by unlawful occupants.
It is an offence for freehold owners or private tenants to make a false statement concerning the above criteria, punishable by a term not exceeding 6 months or not exceeding a £5000 fine.
It is also an offence for an occupier not to leave when presented documentation required to fulfill the recognition of a Protected Indended Occupier (PIO), a displaced residential occupier (DRO).
Clauses 70 & 71.
Criminal Sanctions Against Squatting.
If an interim possession order has been granted against occupiers, it is a criminal offence to be in that property 24 hours after the serving of the notice. It is also a criminal offence to return to that property within one year. These offences are punishable by 6 months imprisonment and/or a level 5 fine (£5000).
Any person found in the property within one month of the service of the order will be assumed to have been there at the time of the order and will therefore be guilty of an offence with the same punishment. A constable may arrest, without a warrant, anyone he reasonably suspects as being guilty of these offences.
If a person obtaining an interim possession order makes a statement that is
a) knowingly or
b) recklessly misleading
then he commits a criminal offence punishable by 2 years imprisonment and/or an unspecified fine.
The clauses in this Bill simply provide the 'jaw-bone' for the bite at squatters. The teeth are the ex-parte (private court) procedures that will be established by the Lord Chancellor via what is called 'delegated legislation' or 'statutory instrument’. These rulings are simply handed down to the courts and are not normally debated in parliament The Lord Chancellor's Department has said that these rulings are yet to be written but will be the subject of a public consultation when they are.
Clauses 72, 73 & 74.
Criminal Sanctions for Unauthorised Campers.
If it appears to a local authority that persons are residing in a vehicle
a) on any land forming part of a highway
b) on any other unoccupied land or
c) on any occupied land without the consent of the owner,
they may direct those persons to leave. Failure to do so with any vehicles they have as soon as possible, or any return to the site within 3 months, is a criminal offence punishable by a level 3 fine (£1000). It is a defence for the accused to show that his failure to leave or to remove the vehicles or other property as soon as practicable, was due to illness, mechanical breakdown or other immediate emergency.
a) any vehicle, whether or not it is in a fit state for use on roads and includes any body, with or without wheels, appearing to have formed part of such a vehicle, and any load carried by, and anything attached to such a vehicle.
Repeal of the Caravan Sites Act 1968.
Withdrawal of the provision made for Gypsys.
Repeal of that part of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 that placed a duty on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsys.
Withdrawal of grants to local authorities for provision for Gypsys. All future applications to provide sites for Gypsys will be subject to the restrictions of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991.
“Gypsy” is defined as persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race and origin but does not include an organised group of travelling showmen or persons engaged in travelling circuses, travelling together as such.
For more articles about the Criminal Justice Act and Public Order Act 1994 - covering the build-up, the resistance, the consequences, plus commentary of discussions in the House of Commons about it click here.