Almost nothing is more distressing than squatters making free with your property – however, the law is no longer as weighted in favour of trespassers as it once was. One squatter who moved into a seaside flat and caused £20,000 worth of damage found that out when he was handed a stiff prison sentence.
The man, who had a serious criminal record, was verbally abusive to police officers who came to arrest him after neighbours complained of loud noises emanating from the flat where he had set up home and of household items, including radiators and floorboards, being thrown from its windows.
He claimed that he was renovating the property and saving it from subsidence but subsequently pleaded guilty to criminal squatting, an offence created by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, and causing criminal damage. He was jailed for two years by a judge who said that he had convinced himself that he was entitled to help himself to other people’s property.
He was sentenced on the basis that he had caused £20,000 worth of damage to the flat, although prosecutors claimed that the actual figure was closer to £60,000. The facts of the case emerged as the Court of Appeal accepted the man’s plea that his sentence was excessive and reduced it to 16 months.