A 21-year-old man living in a flat in Pimlico has become the first person in the UK to be prosecuted under new squatting legislation in the UK.
The new laws were brought in as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which became law on 1 September this year.
Until the legislation came into force squatting was a civil matter, now offenders can be sentenced to fines and time in prison.
Alex Haigh arrived in London from Cornwall two years ago and was arrested in the Pimlico flat earlier this month. Mr Haigh pleaded guilty to squatting in a residential property. Magistrates in Westminster sentenced him to 12 weeks in prison.
According to council officials the police asked for the squatter to be given notice of their intention to visit the flat. Despite this he remained in the flat and the police arrested him when they took possession of the property.
Jonathan Glanz is Westminster's cabinet minister for housing.
"Councils and ordinary hard-working people across London have for too long faced lengthy legal battles to get their homes back from squatters," he told The Independent.
"With these new powers, we have been able to recover a property from a squatter who was depriving a family in desperate need of a home, in a much quicker time than was previously possible," he added.
Neighbours of Mr Haigh were surprised at his sentence.
"I don't think they were doing any real harm. Obviously the owners had a right to get them out but not put them in prison," they told the BBC.
However, despite some reservations from the public, the Ministry of Justice is resolute in the utility of the new criminal offence of squatting in a residential building.
"It is extremely encouraging that the new criminal offence of squatting in a residential building, which came into effect at the beginning of this month, is enabling the police and other agencies to take quick and decisive action to protect homeowners against squatting."
London council is first to use anti-squatting law (The Independent)