Our three friends who were accused of the “offence” of occupying an unused allegedly residential building have all now been cleared of any “crime.” The three were arrested in Brighton last year, just two days after the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO 2012) had become law. When they came to trial, two had charges dropped, the other one was convicted purely on the word of a copper. On appeal, this conviction was quashed on October 31, over a year later. So finally we can celebrate!
Now at last we can talk about the case and what it means for squatting. Basically, the news is good. Very good in fact. This new law is unenforceable, just as groups such as Squatters Action for Secure Housing (SQUASH) and the Squatters Network of Brighton and Hove always maintained.
We won the appeal!!
A squatter convicted under s144 had the conviction unanimously overturned for lack of ANY evidence. Our barrister was ninja and the judge laid down some stringent guidelines on what the police must do to establish proof that someone lives in a squat. Unfortunately he refused to define what constitutes residential…
A deeper analysis will follow, for now we can only say if you are accused of squatting a residential building, don’t talk to police at all (no comment interview) and plead not guilty. This law is fucked and unenforceable.
Also, the #mikeweatherleyisacoward case continues so our @housingwar twitter will continue with court updates. Continue reading for tweets from court today:
So tomorrow (Thursday 31 October) the appeal against the s144 conviction continues in Hove Crown Court (today went quite well, we will be posting a full report after the trail concludes) AND also the two day trial of a man accused of calling Member of Parliament Mike Weatherley a coward begins at Brighton magistrates court (yes it does really).
The appeal of the third squatban resister is coming up in Brighton!
In a week and a half, on the 30th and 31st of October, our friend Dirk will finally have his appeal against his conviction for Squatting a Residental building. We call on all squatters to come to this appeal and support Dirk! Fuck S144!
Down with Weatherley, up the squatters!
We are pretty shocked to report that the third and last defendant was found GUILTY under s144 on May 24. He was sentenced to 40 hours unpaid labour and a £250 fine. Previous updates can be found here. This decision was immediately appealed and we will let you know the next court date asap.
Today the squatting trial in Brighton was adjourned until the 24th May as it ran out of time due to extreme faffing.
Two squatters had already had the case against them thrown out of court when the magistrates realised the prosecution hadn’t actually presented any evidence that they lived in the building. And the case against the third squatter looks pretty flimsy.
One of the freed defendants, said:
On September 3 2012, some people were arrested for being in a derelict building under section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act.
The three defendants are booked in for a two and a half day trial at Brighton Magistrates Court which starts at 10am Monday April 22 2013.
At this stage we think the trial will go ahead on this date. Come on down!! It’s gonna
be a riot! a lot of fun. Solidarity actions would be welcome.
The charges originally were squatting (under s144), obstruction (of the police in their lawful duty) and abstraction (ie stealing electricity). The abstraction charge has already been dropped.
Today we saw how far the University management are willing to go to suppress protest on campus. At 11am this morning bailiffs, accompanied by a staggering number of police, arrived on campus to evict students who have been occupying the Bramber House Conference Centre since February 7th. After the occupiers peacefully left the building chanting and singing, four students were arrested and many others were abused at the hands of the police.
Communique originally sent to Act For Freedom Now:
In the early hours of January 16th 2013 we found a suitable canvas to express our rage and solidarity with the recent wave of attacks on anarchist/autonomous spaces in Greece.
On the pristine white wall of the Halifax bank on London Road (central Brighton) we painted “Solidarity with squats in greece” in large green letters, accompanied by A.C.A.B, a large squatter symbol and circled A in black paint. This is only a small expression of our desire to strike back in what are difficult and oppressive times for all of us. Unfortunately we do not have any pictures of our art. [Read More]
Mike Weatherley, Tory MP for Hove, was due to do a lecture today at Sussex University, in Brighton. He was invited by the Sussex Uni Tory Society to talk about the squatban that he championed.
The first known arrests over the new squatting law happened today.
Three squatters occupying a commercial property in Brighton, who were using the upstairs residential area as an un-lived in social centre, were arrested after a seven hour standoff. The two rooftop occupiers vanished into thin air!
There are also unconfirmed reports of arrests in Somerset.
We will resist the squatting ban by any means necessary.
The Squatter’s Network of Brighton is calling for a Mass Squatting Action on October 13th to resist the new anti-squatting laws. This act is draconian, unworkable, an attack on our way of living and some of the most vulnerable in our society. We will not take it lying down.