05/11/2013

Of Superglue and Residence

A prosecution under s.144 LASPO that came unstuck*

R v D Duputell 31 October 2013 Hove Trial Centre [Newspaper report]

This was the retrial of Mr Duputell after his earlier trial on charges of breach of s.144 LASPO together with two other co-defendants resulted in the cases against them being thrown out.

Mr D had been arrested in what I understand to be a former (empty) pub in Hove. The prosecution was brought on the basis of s.144, (1) of which provides:

(1)A person commits an offence if—
(a)the person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as a trespasser,
(b)the person knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser, and
(c)the person is living in the building or intends to live there for any period.

Leaving aside the issue of whether this was a ‘residential building’ for now, the key issue in the trial was whether Mr D was living or intended to live there.

Mr D had been arrested when “he was found superglued around the joist of a wooden beam” in the property.

The prosecution evidence was that there had been “a sighting of a man fitting Mr Duputell’s description with a distinctively shaved head and blond Mohawk spotted on the roof of the building hours before” the arrest. Also:

that video evidence taken by police officers at the scene showing bedding in the property as well as fresh food in the fridge was evidence that there were people living in the building.

The Court found that this was simply nowhere near adequate to show that Mr D was living or intended to live in the property. ‘His presence could have been because he was a visitor or someone who “had gathered in support with this group making a political point”.

Case dismissed.

It is worth noting that the Court suggested that convictions would need “evidence gathered through forensic work, surveillance and door-to-door inquiries”, unless, as with the unfortunate Mr Haigh, the trespasser simply admits to living there.

The difficulties in s.144 that this case highlights do not come as a surprise. But that is what happens with hasty legislation.

I understand the Judge was invited to make findings on whether the property could be considered ‘a residential building’ for the purposes of s.144(1)(a), specifically whether it was designed or adapted for use as a place to live, but declined to do so.

I think that the building had first floor rooms that were formerly lived in, presumably by the pub manager. Any more details on this would be interesting, though, in view of the Court dismissing the case on the ‘living or intending to live’ point, it will take further cases to deal with ‘a residential building’ – s.144(3) providing:

For the purposes of this section—
(a)“building” includes any structure or part of a structure (including a temporary or moveable structure), and
(b)a building is “residential” if it is designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live.

 

[*I’m sorry. Really sorry.]

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

1 Comment

  1. housingwar

    hi there, nice to see some analysis here, just to correct you on one thing – it wasn’t a pub in hove, it was a commercial building in brighton, at 77 london road.

    the building had two separate entrances, namely one to a shop and a second to the rest of the building, which was composed of a basement and two floors. the whole building had been squatted prior to September1, afterwards the squatters had moved to the clearly commercial bit, the ex-shop, which remained squatted before being evicted in mid2013 via a court process (after several illegal attempts).

    whilst the police and the property managers were adamant that the ‘upstairs bit’ was residential, it turned out that planning permission to convert to residential had been granted in the mid1990s but never executed. thus the upstairs had never been adapted to residential use at all (despite having a bathroom and a kitchen).

    unfortunately, as you correctly state, judge tain deemed it “improper” in this particular case to get further into that thorny issue of what adapted for residential means in law.

    nevertheless, it’s not looking good for s144, especially after the result in wales. we have deeper analysis on our website – http://rooftopresistance.squat.net and also there is a good piece looking at s144 implementation in different places on indymedia – http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2013/11/513676.html

    Reply

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