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The trespass trap: this new law could make us strangers in our own land

4 603 0
15.01.2020

Every government of the past 30 years has promised freedom, and every government has taken it away. The general “freedom” they proclaim turns out to mean freedom for billionaires, the City of London, and the tax-avoiding, labour-exploiting, planet-poisoning chancers whose liberty is our captivity. Meanwhile, through further restrictions on housing, benefits, immigration, protest and dissent, they have snatched freedom from those who need it most.

Boris Johnson’s government intends to sustain this ignoble tradition. Its consultation document on unauthorised encampments proposes to criminalise the lives of some of Britain’s most vulnerable and persecuted groups. By enabling the police to confiscate the homes of “anyone whom they suspect to be trespassing on land with the purpose of residing on it”, Gypsies, Roma and Travellers will be left with nowhere to stop.

Even the police oppose this legislative cleansing: 75% of police forces and police commissioners believe that existing powers are sufficient to address any harmful behaviour by members of these groups. The government’s sweeping proposals would amount to collective punishment. This is Conservatism at its cruellest and meanest.

But when you examine the proposals more closely, you begin to realise that they don’t stop at the persecution of travelling peoples. The way the questions are framed could enable the government to go much further than the official purpose of the consultation, potentially launching one of the most severe restrictions on general freedom in the modern era.

The consultation is everything such exercises are not supposed to be. It is confusing and heavily slanted. It is pitched in such a way that, however you might answer the questions, you are forced to agree with a profoundly illiberal idea.

For example, the first question asks: “To what extent do you........

© The Guardian