Teenage trespasser from Loughborough falls foul of new anti-squatting laws
A teenager has become the first person in Leicestershire to be prosecuted for the new criminal offence of squatting.
Cameron Makepeace, of Bridgeland Road, Loughborough, was arrested on November 30 while staying in an unoccupied house in the town.
The 18-year-old admitted a charge of "knowingly, as a trespasser, living in a residential building" between November 7 and 30, at Loughborough Magistrates' Court. The offence came into effect in September as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act.
Magistrates were told the property, in Kirkstone Drive, had been empty since its previous owners had died and their son put it up for sale.
Chris Burdett, prosecuting, said the owner left the house secured on November 7 but an estate agent later inadvertently left the key in the front door after a visit.
Mr Burdett said: "When he returned on November 29, he said the property smelled of smoke and he noticed cigarette stub marks on the floor.
"There had also been a number of people seen at the address by neighbours, who reported seeing a car in the driveway."
On further investigation, the owner found the front door lock had been "super-glued" and a set of patio doors damaged.
Police were notified and called again the following day when the owner returned to find a car in the drive.
Mr Burdett said: "The defendant was found inside the house and arrested.
"He said he had found the front door open and the house empty and said he was going to move in there because he was homeless."
Makepeace also pleaded guilty to criminal damage.
He admitted three additional charges, of burglary, theft and attempted theft – offences committed in Wood Gate, Loughborough, while on bail for squatting.
In mitigation, Kevin Sayce said Makepeace had been living in temporary accommodation since being kicked out of home after ending an apprenticeship prematurely.
He said problems securing job seeker's allowance and housing benefit had left him in rent arrears.
At the time of both sets of crimes, he had been threatened with eviction.
"This is a young man with no previous convictions, who accepts full responsibility for his behaviour," Mr Sayce said.
"He has no drug, drink or mental health issues. Rather, the circumstances of the offences on both occasions appear to be a lack of, or being near to losing, accommodation."
Magistrate David Womersley sentenced Makepeace to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, for burglary and a total of nine weeks in prison, also suspended, for trespass, theft and attempted theft – to run concurrently.
He will be supervised for the next year and was ordered to carry out 40 hours of unpaid work.