The Guardian – First squatter jailed under new law

The following is taken from todays Guardian…..a sad reflection on todays society…..

A 21-year-old man arrested at a flat in Pimlico, central London, has become the first person to be jailed under the government’s anti-squatting legislation.

Alex Haigh, originally from Plymouth, has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to occupying a housing association flat without permission.

The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that Haigh was the first person to be given a custodial sentence under section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which came into force on the first day of September.

West London magistrates heard that police officers had gone to the flat in Cumberland Street on 2 September in search of another man. They arrested three people, one of whom was Haigh, on suspicion of squatting and all three have been convicted; the other two are awaiting sentence.

The law criminalises squatting in residential premises. Housing charities have warned that it may trigger a surge in homelessness as squatters are forced on to the streets in order to avoid a criminal record.

The squatters’ rights group Squash (Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes), which campaigned against criminalisation, condemned the sentencing as “deeply disproportionate and unjust”. It said the building the men were occupying had been empty for more than a year.

Haigh’s father, Hugh, told the Evening Standard newspaper that his son, an apprentice bricklayer, had come to London in July seeking work. “They have made an example of him. To put him in that prison environment, I don’t understand it. If he broke the law, he should be dealt with, but it is like putting someone who has not paid their taxes into Dartmoor prison.”

Rueben Taylor, from Squash, said: “This marks a dark day for our country, as a young vulnerable person is being sent to prison simply for trying to keep a roof over his head.

“The real crime is the 930,000 properties sitting empty across the UK, not the people who are bringing these back into use. This crazy law is aggressively punishing the victims of our housing crisis, at massive cost to the taxpayer.”

Under section 144, squatting in England and Wales is punishable by up to six months’ jail and fines of up to £5,000. The change in the law does not affect commercial premises.

In a circular sent to judges, courts and the police, the Ministry of Justice confirmed that what were previously known as “squatters’ rights” – preventing forcible entry to an occupied building – would become redundant in relation to residential premises.

Squash claims the cost of criminalising squatting will be as high as £790m over the next five years.

Save the Children – This is in the UK

What do you think of when you hear ‘save the children’. Africa, starving, malnourished, flies, drought, famine, appeal….thats what usually springs to my mind. So imagine sitting eating your coco pops, getting ready for work and seeing on the news that Save the Children have launched a new campaign to help poverty stricken the UK.

Right now, here in the UK, 1.6 million children are growing up in severe poverty. Children like seven-year-old Lauren, who don’t have the basics we all expect our own children to have: simple things like a warm home, hot meals and a bedroom free from damp and mould. We’ve launched our first public appeal for our UK work, to help poor families and children survive the recession

How can this happen in one of the worlds richest countries? While we hear about cabinet reshuffles, new runways at Heathrow, the banking crisis etc I have to ask how much is this system, this culture, actually contributing to our society when we cannot even give our children a hot meal and safe, warm housing. When are we going to get leadership that will look after basic human needs before profit, before political gesturing, before individual ambition? It doesn’t matter what party you are in, support or vote for if your basic human compassion does not recognise that in this country children are living in poverty and this is unacceptable.

If you want to help you can volunteer, donate or campaign, just visit here. Please share this with your friends and do a little bit to helping the UK out of poverty…… 1.6 million children….thats something I never thought I would write.