More squatters prosecuted in Barking and Dagenham than anywhere else in London

Squatting in residential properties has been made into a criminal offence.

Squatting in residential properties has been made into a criminal offence. - Credit: Archant

Police have dealt with more squatters in Barking and Dagenham than anywhere else in London since new legislation was introduced.

In September last year, squatting in a residential property was made a criminal act carrying a maximum sentence of six months in jail or a fine of up to £5,000.

Figures released by the Met Police have revealed that in the first seven months of the squatting offence coming into force, almost 100 people across the capital had action taken against them and 11 of them were in Barking and Dagenham.

This record was followed by Ealing and Waltham Forest which both had eight offences, and then Southwark and Haringey with six each, but neighbouring boroughs Redbridge and Newham each only had two, and Havering had just three offences.

Five of the offences in Barking and Dagenham were in Eastbury ward, where in February three squatters were caught by police.

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Justice secretary Chris Grayling last Thursday (30) published the first figures on legal action on squatting and warned: “For too long squatters have played the justice system and caused homeowners untold misery in eviction, repair and clean-up costs. This is no longer being tolerated.

“Since we criminalised squatting in September last year the police have been working alongside other agencies taking quick and decisive action to protect homeowners across the country and 38 cases have already gone through the courts.”

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Across the whole of London, 25 squatters were taken to court between September and December last year, with one jailed, 11 fined and eight receiving conditional discharges.

Previous to the law being changed, homeowners often had to take costly legal action to reclaim possession of their property.

In 2010, pensioner George Pope of Keir Hardie Way, Barking, returned to his council home after being away for two days to find his locks changed and a family had moved in.

Police discovered that a rogue estate agent had arranged for the family to move in, and George was soon able to return to his house.

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