29 April 2022
Sharma welcomes Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act

Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has today welcomed new legislation to deal with illegal encampments. 

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act has now received Royal Assent and equips the police with the powers and tools they need to combat crime and create safer communities, while overhauling sentencing laws to keep serious sexual and violent offenders behind bars for longer. 

The setting up of illegal traveller sites can be a source of nuisance and disturbance for local communities. After two consultations on this issue, new measures have been introduced through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which increase the powers available to the police in England and Wales. The Act introduces a new criminal offence where a person resides or intends to reside on any public or private land without permission and has caused, or is likely to cause, significant harm, obstruction, or harassment or distress. 

In addition, the legislation amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the list of harms that can be considered by the police when directing people away from land; and increase the period in which persons directed away from land must not return from three months to 12 months. Amendments to the 1994 Act will also allow police to direct trespassers away from land that forms part of a highway. 

This will be welcomed by residents from across the Reading West constituency who have faced numerous unauthorised encampments over recent years and have suffered varying levels of distress, anti-social behaviour and intimidation. 

During his time as Housing and Planning Minister, Alok initiated the original consultation on changes in the law and he encouraged interested constituents to respond to the public consultation at the time. He subsequently launched a local petition in his constituency in 2018 which has been signed by over 2,000 people calling for trespass to be made a criminal offence. Alok has since made representations to the former and current Home Secretaries to make the case for a change in the law to make trespass a criminal offence. 

The PCSC Bill was introduced in the House of Commons in March 2021 and received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022.

Alok Sharma said:

“I am delighted that the PCSC Act has now received Royal Assent. I have long campaigned for making trespass a criminal offence and strengthening police powers to deal with illegal encampments. The Government clearly recognised the challenges and significant distress and misery that can be caused by unauthorised encampments. This new legislation will ensure that the police are fully equipped with the powers they need to tackle encampments.”