A group of squatters evicted from the new home of a neurologist and his heavily pregnant wife yesterday (Wednesday 7 September) have moved into a basement flat 300 yards away.
The squatters left Dr Oliver Cockerell and his wife Kaltun's West Hampstead home after the District Court granted the couple an eviction notice, despite their legal team failing to follow correct procedure.
The judge, Ian Avent, said that squatting is "becoming slightly prevalent" in North London, adding "I understand that it is up to the courts to nip that in the bud."
Dr Cockerell and his wife brought their £1m property in anticipation of the birth of their first child. After completing the purchase on 23 August 2011, they visited the Edwardian house two days later to find a group of at least 14 squatters living in their new home.
The squatters refused requests from the couple to leave, only doing so after the eviction notice was issued by the court.
The police told the couple they were unable to do anything, as they can only arrest squatters if there is evidence of breaking into the property or criminal damage.
One of the squatters told the media that squatters do society a favour, saying they leave "dilapidated buildings" in a better condition than when they arrive.
Judge Fiona Henderson agreed in a controversial ruling made only the day before the Cockerells were granted their eviction notice. She said squatters should be "encouraged" as they bring abandoned or disused buildings back to life.
However, the housing minister Grant Shapps disagrees and said the court acted correctly in the Cockerells' case against the squatters. He said the Government is currently 'consulting' on whether squatting should be criminalised.
Camden Council has issued a 'protected occupier notice' to the group of squatters now occupying the basement flat as it intended for new tenants. The notice gives the squatters 24 hours to vacate the premises.
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