Tresspassers will roam free

We hear a lot about online privacy but are we neglecting physical privacy, which potentially matters more to many people? I have witnessed numerous deliberate acts of trespass, such as people walking dogs on private land, jumping over fences to take drugs on school grounds, playing in other people’s gardens, using their swimming pools, and hunting. Often this lack of respect leads to other crimes, such as vandalism, burglary and squatting. Nobody listens to complaints. The authorities rarely act against vandals, burglars and squatters so you can’t expect them to stop trespassers.

There used to be signs saying Tresspassers will be prosecuted and they were. The UK Government is considering making deliberate trespass a criminal offence again, without apologising for downgrading it. This is inspired by Ireland, who introduced legislation against travellers, formerly known as gypsies, allowing the police to impound caravans. Allegedly the travellers then fled across the sea to camp illegally in defiance of local authority polices that should meet their needs.

Like most political ideas this sanction is flawed. If you want travellers to move it’s not a good idea to confiscate their vehicle and make them homeless. A better policy would be to impose a large fine for all acts of deliberate trespass and invest the funds in proper sites for travellers, signs warning against tresspass, and educating people so that they know it’s not okay to go on other people’s land without permission.

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