Friern Barnet Library & The Criminalisation of Squatting

It’s become clear that the latest occupants of Friern Barnet Library are ‘squatting’ within it in protest at the fact that the public building has been empty for over six months, and in particular, in protest of the bill campaigned for by local Conservative MP Mike Freer (of Finchley & Golders Green) which, as of 31/08/2012, criminalises squatting.

A few remarks on this act (Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders 2012), which I have been overwhelmingly opposed to from the outset. It has only been a recent discovery of mine (from hearing of the protest itself) that it was in fact Mike Freer (a previous leader of Barnet Council) who advocated for and campaigned for the act.

It’s remarkable that at a time when Barnet and London’s police force are facing massive cuts to public service, an act should be criminalised when civil remedies (getting an eviction order against squatters), are already sufficient to deal with any problematic squatting for private owners of property; especially at a time where legislation makes it almost impossible to adversely possess another person’s property.

In short the Act adds nothing constructive whatsoever to the rights of landowners, tenants or occupants, and is an example of the ideologically motivated (but dangerous) fluff the Conservatives consistently come up with, here in the borough of Barnet and nationally.

The net result is the stigmatisation of squatting in unused buildings when we anticipate an influx of homelessness as a result of the coalition’s indiscriminate cuts to legal aid, public services, and the introduction of universal credit. This is not least to mention the additional pressure on the police force at a time when major crime rates is likely to increase due to cuts in police services.

 

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