House of Commons Library

Trespass to land

Published Wednesday, May 15, 2019

This note provides some background information about issues relating to trespass to land. Trespass is not generally a criminal offence; however, there are certain statutory provisions which make particular forms of trespass offences. In 2012, the Government introduced a new offence of squatting in residential buildings, but also said it had no plans to criminalise any other forms of trespass. In 2018 the Government published a consultation on powers to deal with unauthorised development and encampments. The Government's response to the consultation includes plans to strengthen police powers to deal with trespassers in certain situations.

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Generally speaking, trespass to land is not a criminal offence unless a specific statutory provision makes it so. Any damage done by a trespasser while trespassing may amount to the offence of criminal damage.

In civil law, trespass to land consists of any unjustifiable intrusion by a person upon the land in possession of another. Civil trespass is actionable in the courts but requires a claim to be brought by the owner of the land.

In opposition, the Conservatives published a “green paper” on planning, including a proposal (in the context of travellers) to introduce a new offence of trespass. In 2012, the Government introduced a new offence of squatting in residential buildings, but it also indicated that it had no plans to criminalise any other forms of trespass.

In 2018 the Government launched a consultation on powers to deal with unauthorised developments and encampments. The Government response, published in Febraury 2019, set out plans to strengthen police powers to deal with trespass.  

Commons Briefing papers SN05116

Author: Joanna Dawson

Topics: Civil law, Crime

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