, , ,

It’s now 24 hours since the Bailiffs successfully evicted the protestors from the Stop Hs2 ‘protest’ camp at Harvil Rd just outside Ruislip, West London. For those not familiar with the area or what’s happening, here’s a map.

The two circles show the extent of the work that the protestors have utterly failed to stop. The field which contained their little camp is marked with an X. Just out of the picture to the right is Ruislip, in the opposite direction is Denham Country Park.

Since the eviction the StopHs2 website and antis social media pages have been full of utter nonsense about the legality of the eviction. Their supporters have been spreading the mischievous myth that this was illegal as the protestors were protected from eviction by Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. This is an old squatters favourite as it protected them from unlawful eviction. Section 6 was enacted to stop unscrupulous landlords who (on finding one of their properties had been squatted) would get a few blokes together and turf out the squatters without resorting to the hassle of going through the time-consuming process of taking legal action in the courts. Back in the 1970s when squatting was a big thing illegal evictions were a real problem and various legal groups lobbied the Government to give legal protection to squatters to stop it happening – hence Section 6. as an aside, the 1977 CLA’s an interesting bit of legislation because of some of its other provisions. Section 52 redefined cannabis to include cannabis resin after a successful appeal due to a loophole in the 1971 MODA (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971). See R v Goodchild [1977].

When my properties (see below) were squatted you’d often find that the squatters had a printed S6 notice stuck to the front door, thinking this was some sort of magic charm that protected them from eviction. It didn’t. It merely made it illegal to evict them without due process and a court order executed with a warrant by officers of the court (Bailiffs). Of course, since the 1977 CLA, the eviction process has been speeded up considerably, but the anti HS2 protesters seem to think they’re still living back in the 1970s-80s!

I have to admit to a certain amount of interest and previous experience here. In a previous life back in the 1990s I was a Housing Officer for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets before taking on the same role at Tower Hamlets Housing Action Trust when 3 estates in Bow (E London) were transferred to that organisation. Evictions were part of my job and I (along with the County Court bailiffs) carried out many over the years. One day, if I ever get the time I’ll blog about some of the stories, which whilst both funny and tragic they’re worth relating. But I digress.

Here’s the latest misinformation and spin on the Stop Hs2 website from that renowned ‘legal expert’ Joe Rukin.

There’s only one problem with this. Joe is completely clueless about the reality of the law. As I pointed out earlier, S6 only protects people from illegal eviction.

This was not an illegal eviction.

Why? Because it was carried out under the conditions of a Compulsory Purchase Order. The fact the squatters claimed they allegedly had ‘permission’ from the previous tenant is irrelevant, they didn’t have it from the new owners of the land. In yesterday’s blog I linked to an excellent explanation in plain English of CPO powers in this situation. You can find it here. But in this blog I’ll make it easier by copying it and spelling out the relevant sections. The beauty of this link is it describes enforcing a CPO in EXACTLY these circumstances.

So, let’s rebut (point by point) the StopHs2 claims.

“protestors had legal occupation of the land under the Criminal Law Act 1977”.

No. They didn’t. the 1977 CLA only provides protection from illegal eviction. It doesn’t confer any right to occupation. By purchasing the land from the previous owners under a CPO HS2 Ltd had legal rights over the land, not the protestors. All it means is that HS2 Ltd had to go through due process to remove the protestors from the land, which they did.

today HS2 Ltd decided they could evict the entire camp under Compulsory Purchase Oder (sic) powers, despite the supposed protection of the CLA, which suggests this is an illegal eviction“.

It ‘suggests’ nothing of the sort. Rukin doesn’t understand the CLA, or the powers granted by a CPO.

“In this video, the man in charge of the eviction admits there is no eviction order, and the eviction is being conducted under a compulsory purchase order, despite the fact the land is covered by a notice of occupation under the Criminal Law Act”.

Here we go again…

Forget the CPA, we’ve already dealt with that. “there is no eviction order” because no notice is required, as the guidance explains. In fact the Bailiff went to great pains to explain his powers in detail (as the video on the StopHs2 Facebook page shows). The only problem is the likes of Sarah Green and Rukin simply weren’t listening!

The acquiring authority may apply to a justice of the peace to a warrant which will entitle them to exercise the power given in the CPO. The justice of the peace can only issue the warrant authorising the use of force if he or she is satisfied that persons are preventing or are likely to prevent entry and that it is reasonable to use force to remove them.

Once the warrant has been issued, this is the instruction to the HCEO to deliver possession of the land to the acquiring authority. No other court order is required.

The warrant confers the powers the HCEO will need to execute it, including the right to enter the land or premises and to use reasonable force. The HCEO will be wholly responsible and personally liable for the execution of the warrant.

So, the warrant having been issued, there’s no need to give advance warning of its execution and enforcement. Why? This explains.

Giving notice

Whilst the acquiring authority does have to give notice of the CPO and their intention to take possession (via a notice to treat or a vesting declaration), the HCEO is not obliged to give notice of the enforcement of the warrant.

However, should the circumstances indicate that it would be more appropriate to serve notice, perhaps because children are on the premises, then they can do so. In the case of protesters, particularly environmental protesters, serving notice might carry the risk of more protesters being brought onto the site.

This last sentence spells out exactly why no notice is needed or was given.

As for this nonsense about the police acting illegally by not intervening. Here’s the reality. The police have a statutory duty to assist.

The police

The police has a statutory duty to assist the HCEO when executing either a High Court writ or a compulsory purchase order warrant – Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 sec 140 (10).

Hopefully people will find this useful in dispelling the StopH2 myth-making, disinformation and spin around these evictions. I doubt it’ll have any influence on the protestors themselves, many of whom seem to live in an alternate universe to the rest of us judging by the stuff they’ve been coming out with, but this is why they’re on to a loser. Their bubble bursts when it comes into contact with the real world – especially the legal world!

Not that this stops some of StopHs2’s supporters coming out with some hilarious, paranoid old rubbish and conspiracy theories that really are away with the fairies. Take this example from the StopH2 Facebook page today.

Quite how this tinfoil-hat nonsense is meant to Stop Hs2 is a mystery. Sadly, it is a good illustration that we have a real problem in this country with people peddling rubbish and who really can’t tell fact from fiction. Here’s another absolute classic from the StopHs2 Facebook page!

Oh, the irony!

This afternoon various Facebook groups were still spreading rubbish about the legality of the eviction (and more), like this one. But notice how few people have shared it, never mind actually responded.

On that note I thought I’d conclude this blog with a picture taken at the last Facebook friends of StopHs2 annual meeting…