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 Research Briefing SN05116
  • Author: Joanna Dawson
  • Topics: Civil law, Crime

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