Almost 70 suspected squatters have been brought before the courts in the year since it became a crime, figures show.
The data, obtained from the Crown Prosecution Service under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that 69 people were charged. Many of those found guilty were handed fines, usually of around £100, while others were given conditional discharges. One person received a jail term of 90 days.
Announcing the new law, which came into effect on 1 September last year, the government said it would “end the misery of squatting”. Many commentators feared that people who were unable to pay rising rent prices would find themselves affected.
Grant Shapps MP, housing minister at the time, said: “For too long, hardworking people have faced long legal battles to get their homes back from squatters, and repair bills reaching into the thousands when they finally leave.
”No longer will there be so-called squatters' rights. Instead, from next week, we're tipping the scales of justice back in favour of the homeowner and making the law crystal clear: entering a property with the intention of squatting will be a criminal offence.“
Previously, squatting was a civil offence, and homeowners had to go to court to prove people were trespassing on their property. However, Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has allowed local authorities to call in the police to arrest squatters, rather than pursuing lengthy civil eviction proceedings through the courts.
The data, obtained by The Huffington Post UK, covered those charged up to July 2013. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said there had been 94 offences between September 1 2012 and May 19 2013.
Separate figures obtained by the website revealed that there had been 90 arrests made outside of London since the Act came into force, with fewer than half resulting in charges.