My complaint to the Beeb on squatting

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Thu Aug 18 14:44:52 BST 2011

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If you want to complain about the squatting article 
[] too, goto


Category: Factual error or inaccuracy

Summary: The item gives an erroneous and biased view of the proposed reforms 
to squatting law

Full complaint:

The woman presented in the news report was unlawfully displaced from her home. 
As a "displaced residential occupier" under the Criminal Law Act 1977 she 
could have used 'reasonable force' to remove the people in her home, or called 
the police to do so. This is because squatting a property that's already has 
an occupant is ALREADY UNLAWFUL under the Criminal Law Act 1977.

The proposals being brought forward by the Department of Justice relate to the 
squatting of empty homes, with no existing residential occupier, or of other 
non-residential premises and land. This is a significant change because it 
means that no one who is homeless will be able to seek shelter anywhere 
without the risk of harassment or criminal prosecution. If extended to all 
land, not just buildings, it would also criminalise many other activities such 
as camping on open land in the countryside (so called, "wild camping" -- an 
increasingly popular activity, and one that was legalised in Scotland in 

Whilst we have many homeless persons or needing accommodation that meets their 
needs, the fact is that over 700,000 homes are empty (see -- with no residential occupancy -- is a complete 
failure of government regulation of the housing market; one that will not be 
helped by the proposed changes to the law on squatting. At the same time there 
are increasing numbers of commercial premises, as well as open land, being 
used for squatting around the UK because many people cannot secure access to 
housing. At present the law on squatting presents an incentive not to leave 
homes empty -- because they could be legally squatted; but if squatting were 
criminalised landlords could leave homes empty as they wished in order to 
manipulate the local housing market.

It's also important to consider the historical framework for squatting. The 
law on squatting evolved over four hundred years ago, adapting the pre-
existing traditions of the land (similar to those in Scotland today) as people 
were driven from the land by the Inclosure Acts. Today, with the rising costs 
of housing against a background of stagnant incomes for the poorest in 
society, once again we see large numbers of people in dire need of housing -- 
except this time the law is being changed to penalise not to support them.

The broadcast article did not reflect the facts of the existing law on 
squatting in its content; neither did it accurately report the proposals of 
the Department of Justice in changing the law on squatting. It did not seek 
the view of squatters, or the agencies who seek to represent the cause of 
squatters. And it failed to adequately contrast the existence of so many empty 
properties in the UK at a time when there is dire financial need.

It's not enough for the BBC to accept that there were errors in this broadcast 
- -- they must properly investigate and impartially present the facts of the 
existing laws on squatting and the proposed changes by the Department of 

- -- 


"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

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