Four more S144 Defendants Walk Free!

Another four people have been found “Not Guilty” of the criminal offence introduced in September 2012. They were arrested at a building in Scrutton Street in March. After over six months on bail, their trial took place at Stratford in October.

When the police arrived, the squatters pointed out the “To Let: Commercial” sign outside, and explained that the building had previously been used as offices, and was not a residential building. Despite this, the police forced entry and arrested all four people inside the building. One of them didn’t even live there, and had only come to visit the occupants. They were all taken to the cop shop, and the squat was lost.

The owner had produced a copy of a council tax bill for the top two floors of the building, and this was the main evidence relied on by the Crown Prosecution Service to go ahead with S144 charges against all four.

During the trial, it became clear that the owner had switched to paying a mixture of business rates and (domestic) council tax for the building, rather than continuing to pay business rates for the entire property. Saving themselves a considerable amount of money by tax-dodging. However it also became clear that nobody from the council had ever visited the premises or checked if this was appropriate.

The District Judge heard that the rooms resembled offices, with power and data points in the floor, no curtain rails, no central heating system, no kitchen facilities and no bathroom or shower. The only sink and toilet were in the basement and there was in fact no running water to the top two floors, making a mockery of the suggestion that anybody had lived there in the past. The entire building was open-plan, with no separation between the different parts, no separate entrance, bell or mail-box. The owners said that they had applied for planning consent to convert the top floors to residential use, but no conversion work had taken place.

For a S144 conviction, the building must have been designed or adapted for residential use before the trespass, and this was obviously not the case here. In the face of this evidence, the judge was forced to disagree with the CPS, and find the defendants innocent of any crime.

Let’s hope that they go on to sue the Metropolitan Police for wrongful arrest etc, and receive some financial compensation for losing their home and their liberty in this way.

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“the beginning of the end of the housing crisis.”

The Focus E15 Mothers Occupation of Residential Property on Carpenters Estate Ended on the 6th October.

The campaign has done an excellent job of exposing Newham Council’s hypocrisy in saying that there is no housing for them in Newham, by occupying a block of four flats on an estate that has 600 empty properties. Now, having achieved their aims perfectly, the occupation has come to a peaceful end and the flats have been returned to the council, two of them in a far better condition than they were.

The support for their protest has been enormous and universal (with the obvious exception of Sir Robin Wales – Mayor of Newham) and the media coverage has been excellent, reaching millions worldwide through many newspapers, TV channels, magazines and the like.

More information from them is available at:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Focus-E15-Mothers/602860129757343
Please support them in any way you can.

With a truly grass roots movement achieving yet another victory over section 144 of LASPO 2012 (the residential anti-squatting law), and the housing crisis worsening, more and more people may be considering something along these lines in their area. ASS would of course be happy to give legal and practical advice and support.

In the words of Sam and Jasmin – This is the beginning of the end of the housing crisis.

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Another Shackdweller community leader assasinated in South Africa

Thuli Ndlovu, the Abahlali baseMjondolo Chairperson in KwaNdengezi, was Assassinated on Monday 29th September.

The local councillor, who the community have been in struggle with since 2010, had often threatened Thuli, and was seen the area earlier that day.

Attacks on land occupations and on the movement in general have intensified recently with a number of attacks, often lead by the ANC.

Abahlali baseMjondolo say “We are facing a war. The struggle for land and dignity continues.”

Squatter Solidarity

for more details see http://abahlali.org/node/14311/

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E15 Open House Occupation

At the 1st birthday party on Sunday 21st September, Focus E15 Mothers occupied a small block on the Carpenters Estate, empty since about 2011, as a protest and social centre for a week.

SOCIAL HOUSING, NOT SOCIAL CLEANSING

Nobody is living on the property so people are needed to fill the rota for 12 hours at a time. Call 07933 845 685 to offer help or find out more.

Various meetings and events will be happening, including comedy from Josie Long on Wednesday 24th September at 6pm

THESE PEOPLE NEED HOMES – THESE HOMES NEED PEOPLE

Comment piece in the Grauniad at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/23/real-politics-empty-london-housing-estate

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Protest occupiers get off S144 charges

p10200532 people charged under Section 144 LASPO had the case thrown out by District Judge Williams at Highbury Magistrates Court on Tuesday 26th August.

Although the main defence of the occupiers was going to be that they were occupying the building in protests against its sell-off by Camden Council, had a rota for staying there and had other addresses where they were living (plus other arguments), what got the case thrown out was that the property had been sold the day before and so there was no allegation of trespass.

So, let’s keep fighting.

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Getting blood out of a stone

Courts are difficult places to get information out of, and once things start going wrong they can put you in a loop that you’ll never find a way out from. Most County Courts no longer have an office that you can go to with enquiries, without making an appointment, which you can’t make because the office isn’t open ……

On the 27th March 2014 an Interim Possession Order was made by someone at Bow County Court. The first the occupiers knew of this was on the 28th when someone turned up with the front page of the order, and a photo to show that a copy had been posted on the door on the previous day. Maybe, but it hadn’t been left there, and the original hearing papers had not been served.

The order was made to Magic Circle Law Firm Ltd. They are not the registered owners, and having not seen any of their statements it is not known what right they claimed to the property.

The occupiers were a collection of diverse groups, thrown together by today’s difficult conditions, and different people ran off in different directions doing different things and sometimes colliding.

We can’t be sure whether the notice we wrote explaining the invalidity of the IPO was shown to the police, or even if the police tried to enforce the IPO before the occupiers moved out. We also don’t know if the draft defence we wrote for the full possession order hearing was used. The Order made states “The Claim is dismissed”, although an email from the Court says possession was granted. The email also said that one of the occupiers “subsequently issued an application to re-enter the property which was dismissed also, by District Judge Vokes” and that a further application was made on D J Vokes’ advice, which had been given a new claim number, to which we have still to be told of any outcome.

On the 30th April ASS emailed the court asking for copies of the orders and the statement in support of the IPO application, quoting Civil Procedure Rules allowing this for people not party to the case, and stating that there appeared to have been a criminal offence involved.

On the 17th May an email came back stating that a District Judge had been asked and said that we had to identify the documents required (we had) and file either an application or a notice of request with the relevant fee. The DJ agreed that the rules we had referred to (CPR 5.4C) applied.

In the absence of an office to go to talk to, or the court having responded to our query about how much the fees would be, we eventually wrote, asking to be invoiced. The reply came back that “The District Judge has directed” that CPR 5.4 does not apply.

This is similar to a problem we had with a dodgy IPO from Willesden County Court a few years ago, where we just go so worn down by complaints, being told “no, you can’t complain, it was the judge’s decision so you have to appeal” etc, that we ground to a halt.

So, does anyone out there have the energy to help us keep battling away at this, or know a way through this bureaucratic mess?

Josef K

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March for Decent Housing

5th July from noon
Central Park, East Ham E6

LET’S MARCH FOR OUR RIGHT FOR DECENT HOUSING


Thousands of people are facing the threat of repossession & eviction, struggling with the bedroom tax, council tax & benefit cap. Families are battling soaring private rents, rogue landlords, & letting agents, discriminating racially & charging huge fees, poorly regulated, short term & insecure tenancies.


We must STAND TOGETHER & FIGHT for our right to housing security.
COME AND JOIN US! THE BIGGER WE GROW THE LOUDER WE BECOME.
Focus On the Future FOF

Central Park, East Ham, London, E6. 12pm.

Directions:- Park entrance opposite White Horse Pub. Buses: 58 101 104 115 474
Tube: East Ham Stn turn left at exit, walking down high st, pass Town Hall, park is on the right.

Organised by Focus E15 Mothers

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Free Workshop Day

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Lambeth renters’ solidarity

Lambeth Renters, an organisation of private renters, has refused a meeting with MP Chuka Umunna because of his call for the further criminalisation of squatting.

Stop criminalising squatting!
Requisition all empties!

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