Nitej Davda, senior associate at Bircham Dyson Bell LLP,
believes that efforts to pass laws to make squatting a criminal
offence would be better spent making the existing civil process
faster, less expensive and more effective.
"We shouldn't be focusing on the criminal process,
but making the existing civil process more effective and much
simpler. If there was one 'uniform' way to remove a
squatter from premises (from the point at which the case is
commenced to the eviction), it would make life more simple for
those affected by squatters," explains Nitej Davda.
"In my opinion this would have been the conclusion
reached had the law on squatting been properly thought through. The
proposed change in legislation has the feel of being fast tracked
to deal with recent high profile cases in the media such as the
Cockerells and Guy Ritchie."
"Whilst the police do currently have powers to remove
squatters in certain circumstances the problem as I see it is there
is no evidence that those current powers are being applied
effectively, meaning most property owners are forced to use the
civil process in any event. Furtheremore, iin the face of cuts to
police budgetswhere would the man power come from to enforce the
law should it be passed?"
"I can see another major practical difficulty with the
proposed change. The police are being asked to form a view on
whether someone is occupying property with or without permission of
the landowner. In the case of residential properties this may not
be an easy case to answer, which will mean property owners will not
benefit from the change. Perhaps most surprising, whilst this
question is much easier to answer when considering commercial
property, the Government has decided (certainly initially) to omit
such properties from the ambit of the proposed change, a decision
which is consistent with the feel of it being a media driven
"As is apparent from the consultation process
undertaken by the Government, the vast majority of squatters (both
in commercial and residential properties) are removed using the
civil process and I do not see this proposed reform changing that.
In light of it the focus should have been on making that process
more accessible for property owners rather than passing legislation
that is unlikely to significantly eradicate the
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The ramifications for those found to be in civil contempt (as presided over by the High Court), and, in particular, the court’s power to enforce such a finding against a contemnor who resides overseas, are more far reaching than many (civil) lawyers realise.
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In the previous edition of Corporate Focus we reported that the Bribery Act 2010 (the Bribery Act) came into force on 1 July 2011 and we considered procedures that commercial organisations could put into place in order to prevent bribery.
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