Sussex

Woman backs Hove MP's squatter law change call

A woman whose dead mother's house was occupied by squatters has backed an MP's bid to make it a criminal offence.

The property owned by Lisa Dallimore's mother was in the process of being sold when squatters moved in for 11 days in June 2011, causing £10,000 of damage.

Hove MP Mike Weatherley has called for squatting to become a criminal, rather than civil, offence and a government consultation has begun.

A group supporting squatters said it would criminalise homeless people.

Mrs Dallimore said she had refurbished the house in York Place, Hove, and a sale had been agreed when the squatters moved in.

'Really galling'

It took 11 days to prove ownership of the house and go to court to get an interim possession order forcing them to leave.

She said they left rubbish all over the house, rotting food and stained carpets while all of the indoor locks were broken.

She said: "This house was empty through no fault of our own, it was empty because of my mother's death, it was not intentional.

"I find it really galling that they feel they can move in there and settle in and do exactly what they want with the house."

At the moment squatting itself is not a criminal offence but rather a civil offence.

Mr Weatherley, who raised the issue of squatting with ministers, said the government consultation was due to close soon and the law could be changed next spring.

He said: "If it was criminalised then the more times they squatted in properties the penalties would increase to the point where we would actually stop them doing this terrible activity."

Reuben Taylor, from Squatters' Action for Secure Homes, said it would be terrible news for homeless people across the country.

She said: "The criminalisation of squatting is the criminalisation of homeless people and we are in the middle of a housing crisis which sees hundreds of thousands of people facing different forms of homelessness."

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