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Police deny claims that eviction of Hampstead squatters was unlawful

Squatters outside the former police station annexe. Picture: Polly Hancock Squatters outside the former police station annexe. Picture: Polly Hancock

Thursday, May 8, 2014
2:00 PM

The Metropolitan Police have denied unlawfully evicting squatters from Hampstead’s axed police station after officers smashed their way into the building.

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Squatter Greg shows the disputed legal document to Insp Howard Hornby outside the former police station in Hampstead. Picture: Polly HancockSquatter Greg shows the disputed legal document to Insp Howard Hornby outside the former police station in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock

Police broke into their former base in Rosslyn Hill on Friday by forcing open a window and battering down the back door, following an hour-long stand-off with squatters who were refusing to leave.

The occupants insisted the eviction was unlawful because legal papers served by bailiffs 24 hours earlier did not include a date or time, although police denied there was any such error and claimed the document had been doctored.

Insp Howard Hornby, who is in charge of neighbourhood policing in north Camden, said: “They stated that the papers were illegal, but I knew them not to be.

“The bailiffs have confirmed they were correctly filled out. There was no resistance from the squatters after we gained entry, they were peaceful and law-abiding.”

Some 21 officers were involved in the operation to end what has been an embarrassing chapter for the Met.

The squatters, who moved in over Easter weekend, proceeded to pile up their belongings in the front garden, including suitcases, a wide-screen television, a guitar and a coffee maker.

Prior to the eviction, 71 per cent of people who responded to a poll on the Ham&High’s website were in favour of allowing the squatters to stay – at least until the building is put to use.

Instead, police will now pay for 24-hour security to protect the building from another occupation. The cost of the whole episode, including legal bills, is likely to run into tens of thousands.

Squatter Michael Dickinson, 64, an artist and former actor, said: “What are they going to do with the place? They’re just going to close it up and we’re homeless again. It’s a sin. We could have looked after the building for free.

“All these people are very trustworthy. These are not the squatters from hell – they are the squatters from heaven.”

Mr Dickinson, who was sleeping in a cardboard box in Camden Town until recently, said he will return to the streets because he cannot face eviction from another squat.

“I can’t keep doing it so I’m going to sleep outside,” he said.

The rest of the group, who have not ruled out taking legal action against police over the manner of eviction, said they were moving to another squat in west London.

They had vowed to help the community during their stay in Hampstead and pledged to spruce up the police station’s front garden with flowers and vegetables.

The squatters were ordered to leave the building at a court hearing on April 30.

At the hearing, squatter Matthew, a 21-year-old student who would not give his surname, told Central London County Court the group should be allowed to live in the former police station’s annexe.

He told the court they would carry out “community services” such as helping the elderly with their shopping.

However, district judge Charlotte Hart disregarded their community efforts and ordered their eviction.

She said: “I’m pleased to hear you are involved in community projects. However, even in these circumstances, this can’t be made right by other good works.”

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