HC Deb 23 June 1986 vol 100 cc13-5
35. Mr. Adley

asked the Attorney-General if he has any plans to seek to consolidate the law relating to trespass; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General

No formal consolidation is envisaged or would be appropriate. However, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is discussing with the police and other interested parties whether any strengthening of the criminal law is required, either by extending the proposed powers of the police in the Public Order Bill or by some limited offence of criminal trespass. In addition, the Lord Chancellor is considering possible improvements in the civil procedure for the summary repossession of land available under order 113 of the Rules of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Adley

In thanking my right hon. and learned Friend for his answer, and while not wishing to get this out of proportion, may I ask whether he is aware that some aspects of recent mass trespass have provided evidence that provocation of the police was part of the objective of some of those involved? Will he consider the law in other democratic countries, especially our fellow members of the European Economic Community, and confirm that in his discussions with the Home Office he will raise the question of the mass use of public roads?

The Attorney-General

That is principally a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but we have always believed that the operational side of police work should be left to the chief constable and his senior officers. It seems to me that they have been doing a good job with the peace convoy.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Why has not the simple remedy available to owners of residential property to deal with squatters, which was provided in the Criminal Law Act 1977, been extended to the residential occupation of land?

The Attorney-General

That is one matter being investigated by the Lord Chancellor and the Home Secretary. The entire area is being examined afresh.

Mr. Key

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the principal objection in this matter is that often matters of public order financially affect small tenant farmers, and that is unacceptable? Will he pass on to the Lord Chancellor the problem arising under order 113, under which a county court judge or a registrar could be used, but there is no duty judge system, as there is in the High Court, and that a speedier and cheaper method is not available?

The Attorney-General

The five-day period in order 113 is under review. The process can be speeded up in urgent cases. I shall ensure that my hon. Friend's comments are brought to the notice of the Lord Chancellor.

Mr. John Morris

Is not the real problem to ensure a balance between the rights of the owners and those who believe that they have a claim of right to a property? Is not the answer to speed up the legal process to adjudicate cases for those who are neither of those things? Is the Lord Chancellor, considering that? Should there not be a duty judge, as there is in many other areas of litigation, who sits during the vacation? In other cases, one can see a judge at night, in chambers, and obtain a temporary order. Is that not what is required?

The Attorney-General

We are considering trying to reduce the five-day period, although it can be reduced in urgent cases. The period extends for five days after service, which can make it a little longer. I shall ensure that the Lord Chancellor is aware of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point about having readier access to a judge.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

When considering the law of trespass, will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that temporary trespass for the purpose of crossing land is not made a criminal offence?

The Attorney-General

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. There will be many difficulties with the introduction of criminal trespass. For example, we must cover the case of a man walking through the front door of a friend's house, thinking that he is at home, but he is not. We must consider such examples, which should never be made criminal offences.

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