The ASS DM response

mark mark at
Wed Mar 16 19:29:27 GMT 2011



Thought I may as well put the response to the Daily mail here. We will be
putting up a media info section for the hacksJ


Alex Bannister

Managing Editor

Daily Mail

by email; managingeditor at


11th March 2011


Dear Sir

We would like to respond to your article of March 5th, which contains a
number of factual errors. We would be grateful if you could correct these
errors, giving the corrections as much prominence as the original article,
as per the PCC code of conduct.

Firstly, the headline - "Professional agencies marketing empty homes to
potential SQUATTERS" - is misleading and inaccurate.  Your article refers to
only one organisation, the Advisory Service for Squatters.   ASS is not
professional, and nor is it an agency. Neither the organisation not any of
the members make any money out of the work that is done. We are a collective
of volunteers offering advice to the homeless and vulnerably housed, and
have been in existence for 36 years. We are hardly news.

Second, ASS does not "market" property. A notice board with a variety of
information placed by those who use our service - also including details of,
for instance, missing people, does not amount to marketing.  As your article
states the Squatters Handbook stresses the need for research, rather than
expecting to find an appropriate property from a notice board, list or


For the heading to reflect the article it should say something like
"voluntary organization offers advice to squatters and other homeless and
insecurely housed people".  We're proud to do so.

There are implications in the URL of the internet version of the article
(which ends
are-going-holiday") and the strange question about whether someone would be
happy for their front room to be squatted that perpetuate the false idea
that squatters can occupy people's homes.  


If a property is in use as a home it can not legally be squatted - Section 7
of the 1977 Criminal Justice Act makes this very clear.  If a squatter
displaces a residential occupier, or prevents an intending occupier from
moving in, they are committing a criminal offence and must leave or risk
arrest and prosecution.

ASS is always clear in our advice on this matter - squatters can only house
themselves in genuinely empty properties, and we encourage squatters to find
properties that have been empty for some time. The "visitor" sent by the
Daily Mail was specifically told to look for a property "in an advanced
state of disrepair". There are some 500,000 such abandoned houses across the
UK, about 1.5% of the total housing stock - a scandal at a time of housing
shortage.  Your article is highly likely to create unnecessary alarm among
homeowners for whom squatting is no threat.  Worse, it could well mislead
potential squatters, encouraging them to harm homeowners and also to
criminalize themselves. 


It is not possible to get legal aid to defend a claim of trespass, unless
there is some other argument that could be won by the defendants.  This is
true for everyone, even those from Eastern Europe, who are in any case less
likely to be entitled to legal aid. Either the case you refer to is more
complicated than you have been told or you have misunderstood.

Much of the report on the visit to our office is twisted and taken out of
context. The visitor was advised on legal and practical matters, having
pretended to be impoverished and homeless. She lied about everything
including her name, yet our volunteers are termed "coy" for only giving
their first name. On this particular occasion the volunteer was not even
asked for any other name. Your reporter was told that a court had recently
found that changing a lock should not be considered criminal damage, and was
shown how to do it, rather than pay someone else. The misrepresentation of
our volunteer staffing the office on that day is particularly offensive.

We look forward to seeing these corrections published in your paper in due
course.  Should you fail to do so within a fortnight, we will take this
matter up with the PCC.  We at the ASS are always happy to provide
commentary on housing issues, and would be happy to give your reporters a
background briefing on the laws relating to squatting, so that they can
report accurately in future.

Yours sincerely


Myk Zeitlin

for the Advisory Service for Squatters collective











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