Letter: More legislation will not help squatters

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The Independent Online
Sir: Elaine Ives-Cameron's claim that 'thousands of home-owners are or have been' experiencing her problems in evicting squatters ('The parasites who took over my home', 21 June) and that her problems were due to insufficient criminal legislation is misleading.

The evidence suggests that squatting of privately-owned property is rare. The vast majority of squatted residential property is owned by local authorities and housing associations.

Under current criminal law, 'protected intending occupiers' and 'displaced residential occupiers' can call on police assistance in gaining vacant possession. Squatters who damage property can also be adequately dealt with by the criminal law. The civil court has unqualified discretion to hear a case against squatters at very short notice and to enforce possession immediately.

If Ms Ives-Cameron took 31 2 years to gain possession, she should be campaigning for fewer administrative delays in the civil procedure rather than stricter criminal proceedings which are, in Shelter's opinion, unnecessary and open to abuse by landlords wishing to illegally evict tenants. As the Association of Chief Police Officers has pointed out, extending the criminal law will simply place more pressure on overstretched police and court resources.

There is a need for recognition by government that most people squat because they are homeless. The goal of public policy should be to make squatting unnecessary, and make it unnecessary for owners of properties to leave them empty.

Yours faithfully,

RICHARD LLOYD

Head of Policy

Shelter

London, EC1

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