Last reviewed : 22/02/2023
Trespass alone is generally a matter of civil law. This means that in most cases the police should not get involved. However, they often do attend the site and often do side with the landowner.
Trespass is entering or putting property on or remaining on land that belongs to someone else without their express or implied permission. What this means is that there should be some permission (whether it is explicit permission or implied permission, such as with shops explained below). If this permission does not exist, then you are trespassing.
If you have implied permission to enter somewhere, as it is with shops which are open to members of the public for the purposes of shopping, then you are not trespassing until you have been asked to leave by the owner of the building or an agent (representative of the owner). In a shop, this person is often the manager. The representative should not be a police officer. If you fail to leave the land, then the land owner may take civil action against you ('sue' you). The land owner or a representative of the owner may also use 'reasonable force' to remove you from the land.
Criminal trespass (with vehicles)
Section 83 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 has made it a criminal offence to reside "on land without consent in or with a vehicle". It is now a criminal offence for anyone aged 18 or over to reside on land as trespassers. This would be where the person does not have permission from the land owner to be there or if permission has been revoked. This only applies if the person has a vehicle or the intention to have a vehicle on the land with them, for the duration of the "residence".
In addition to this, it would need to be shown that:
- If the person is currently residing on the land, significant damage or significant disruption has been caused or is likely to be caused as a result of the persons residing on the land
- If the person is not currently residing on the land, it is likely that significant damage or significant disruption would be caused as a result if the person was to reside on the land
- Significant damage or significant disruption has been or is likely to be caused by anything done by or that is likely to be done by the person whilst they are on the land.
- Significant distress has been or is likely to be caused as a result of "offensive conduct" carried on or likely to be carried on by the person whilst on the land.
Definitions (for the purposes of this section only):
- Damage: "damage to the land, damage to any property on the land, damage to the environment (including excessive noise, smells, litter or deposits of waste)"
- Disruption: "includes interference with a person’s ability to access any services or facilities located on the land or otherwise make lawful use of the land, or a supply of water, energy or fuel"
- Offensive Conduct: "the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or the display of any writing, sign, or other visible representation that is threatening, abusive or insulting"
The person commits an offence if they:
- fail to comply with the request to leave as soon as reasonably practicable or;
- if they return to the land within 12 months of being requested to leave with:
- the intention of residing on the land without the consent of the owner of the land and;
- with a vehicle or with the intent to have a vehicle with them on the land.
If convicted of this offence, one can be sentenced to up to 3 months custody and/or a fine of up to £2,500.
If you commit criminal trespass you now cannot return to the same land for 12 months after being asked to leave (this was previously 3 months, before the PCSC Act 2022 came into force).
If the police seize any property from the person residing on the land, they may keep the property for up to 3 months or up until the end of any criminal proceedings that result from the matter. If convicted of this offence, the court may also order that any property seized is not returned and is forfeited.
Aggravated Trespass S68 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
Aggravated trespass is a criminal offence. This means that the police can get involved and you can be arrested for it. This is as opposed to trespass alone (which is a civil tort), with the exception of Criminal Trespass (with vehicles)
In order to be convicted of the offence of aggravated trespass, the prosecution must prove that
- You trespassed on land
- where people were engaging, or were about to engage in lawful activities (such as working)
- and you then did something (apart from the trespassing) to intentionally obstruct, disrupt, or intimidate others from carrying out those lawful activities.
In addition to this, a senior police officer has the power to order any person believed to be involved in aggravated trespass to leave the land. If the person/people refuse(s) to leave after being ordered to by police officer, or if they return to the land in question within a period of three months, this is an additional offence.
The maximum sentence is 3 months imprisonment, or a fine of £2500, or both. First time offenders would likely receive a fine of between £200 – £300 or a conditional discharge.