SQUASH speaks out: how anti-squatting laws saw Daniel Gauntlett freeze to death

Above: Hove & Portslade MP Mike Weatherley, who told MPs the overlap between homelessness and squatting was a “myth”.

Following on from yesterday’s interview with the creator of Is Mike Weatherley Dead Yet?, I’ve continued to try and get a response out of Tory MP Mike Weatherley, who authored the piece of legislation that made it a crime for Daniel and others to enter an otherwise unoccupied house.

In fact, it was almost exactly a year ago that the MP for Hove and Portslade was cheerfully telling his fellow Parliamentarians that he wished “to dispel the myth once and for all that squatters and homeless people are one and the same.”

It’s been more than a week now since Daniel Gauntlett, 35, of no fixed address, was found frozen to death on the porch of a derelict bungalow. But despite three conversations with his secretary – the latest five minutes ago – and several messages on his ansaphone, Mr Weatherley has offered no comment in any form.

Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes – who just yesterday released their own damning report on Weatherley’s law – were however available for comment and their responses are printed below.

I’m not going to bait you with whether or not SQUASH endorses the website, but is that sentiment [that Daniel Gauntlett died because of Mike Weatherley’s legislation] basically correct?

Weatherley is not the only politician responsible for the criminalisation of squatting, but he has made it his personal campaign. All those who pushed for the criminalisation of squatting need to reflect hard on this tragic loss of life, caused by policies which prioritise private property over basic human needs.

Daniel Gauntlett’s death is notable because of the clear juxtaposition of a homeless man and an empty house, but the links between homelessness (rough sleeping especially) and increased mortality rates are well-documented. In your view, has the government accepted responsibility for these deaths?

No. The government has consistently failed to take responsibility for the impacts of its disastrous policies on the poor and the vulnerable. The government must be held to account for this deadly law.

I’ve yet to hear from Weatherley himself but the usual response is that funding for rough sleeper services is a local authority decision and that the services are there if rough sleepers want to use them. Any response?

People squat because the alternatives are worse. Research from charity Homeless Link (SNAP 2012) shows that alternative to rough sleeping are decreasing with 1544 fewer bed spaces in since 2011 and 58% of homelessness project receiving funding cuts.

Meanwhile Weatherley is also pressing ahead with criminalising squatting in commercial buildings (with the support of Aylesford’s local MP). Given this is the second rough sleeper’s death in the area this month, do you hope this will have any effect on public opinion? 

The public needs to recognise that criminalising squatting forces people onto the streets, with potentially fatal consequences. No only must we reject any further legislation in this area, but we should be looking to repeal this dangerous and inhumane law.


One Comment on “SQUASH speaks out: how anti-squatting laws saw Daniel Gauntlett freeze to death”

  1. anarkaytie says:

    That was ‘liked’ as in, somebody has to publish this.
    “War on the Poor” is hardly rhetoric in the UK, is it?

    Nat Govt in NZ trying to install similar policies here – knocking down social housing, selling off the land to property developers so that middle-income low-density housing can be built for sale not rent.

    Our social housing is vanishing, while private rental rates are soaring in most urban areas. Historic squats in Welli are being closed down/demolished, Auckland is a wasteland of suburban development at the expense of social inequality increasing.

    Hamilton, where I’m living now, is famously ‘bogan’, a V8-drivers paradise with more unfinished roading extensions than Auckland, and a surplus of rental housing due to student gating set up this year through Studylink – numbers are down markedly (up to 10%?) and you can see it in the suburbs nearest to Waikato Uni in Hamilton East.
    WINZ are forcibly moving people up here from as far away as Wairarapa, to work in seasonal jobs available in the farming region around Hamilton.
    We’re nowhere in the league of European poverty yet, but it’s going there – city by-laws are beefing up around vagrancy & Police attitudes are heading towards ‘unemployed = criminal’.

    People would freeze to death here if it got cold enough, but mostly they end up in hospital with respiratory complications from damp & cold on top of ‘flu.
    Last winter it was children & old people dying of pneumonia, I expect a repeat this year.

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