Aggravated Trespass

Image credit: “Human Lives are not political pawns by John Englart (Takver) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Aggravated Trespass is an offence under section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It can only be tried in the magistrates’ court and carries a maximum penalty of three months’ imprisonment.

A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land in the open air and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or are about to engage in on that or adjoining land in the open air, does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect—

(a) of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity,

(b) of obstructing that activity, or

(c) of disrupting that activity.

In a recent ruling the High Court grappled with this important question, namely:

“Whether the Crown must prove that a defendant either knew or was reckless as to whether he or she is a trespasser?”

The court found the answer to be “no”, commenting:

“Trespass is a legal concept from the law of tort, the meaning of which is well-settled; and as is common ground, proof of the civil wrong requires no mental element. Parliament’s decision to use the word trespass when describing the offence of aggravated trespass and indeed when naming the offence is not conclusive, but there is no indication in the statutory language or from the context of the provision, that trespass should be given a different and novel meaning from the meaning it has had at common law for many centuries.

In short, had Parliament intended trespass to mean something different in section 68 from its meaning in the law of tort, it would have said so.”

The court rejected further arguments based on human rights considerations.

This offence is one of a large number that seeks to curtail public protest. In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of protests with activists seeking inventive ways to get their message across to both the public and government. Public protest often causes inconvenience, and the government appears particularly determined to legislate further in order to regulate protester behaviour.

Following recent protests on the M25 motorway, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has warned police they are losing the public’s confidence in their efforts to halt the Just Stop Oil protests as an officer was injured when the group brought the M25 to a halt for a third consecutive day.

The Home Secretary urged police chiefs to “step up” and take a “firmer line” against the protesters as she said there had also been a “loss in confidence” by police in their failure to make full use of their powers to crackdown on the protesters.

As a firm we continually monitor develops in this complex area of law and stand ready to assist anyone accused of, or facing prosecution for, offences of this type.

How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact any member of our vastly experienced Criminal Defence team, for assistance with any criminal law related matter.

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