[Hpn] Squatters Find Police Station Is A Good Home

William C. Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sun, 16 Jan 2005 20:27:11 -0500


January 17, 2005

Squatters find police station is good home without any charges

By Sean O'Neill and Nicola Woolcock

IN ITS heyday, Arbour Square police station in Stepney held its share of
notorious and hardened criminals including the Kray brothers and alleged IRA
But the imposing red-brick building with attached courthouse has recently
acquired an altogether different, some would say more anarchic, type of
occupant - squatters who have moved in and made themselves comfortably at

A skull and crossbones flag has replaced the Union Jack and flutters at
half-mast over the disused building in Lodon's East End while a
Crimestoppers sticker remains in one of its windows. The police, who are
powerless to evict squatters by force, are in the embarrassing position of
having to take legal action to regain possession of what was their own
building. The former home of law and justice had gone the way of many police
stations, closing some years ago. It was recently sold at auction and
contracts are due to be exchanged with the new owners who, it is thought,
will convert it into luxury flats.
But the three-storey property has proved so popular with its current
residents that they have put up a sign saying: "We are filled, there are no
more spaces for people to live".
Police believe that the occupants are members of a network of "professional"
squatters, who know their rights, have lawyers and mobile phones and
organise music and art events.
A legal notice taken from Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act has been posted
on the front door. It advises that entry without the squatters' permission
is a criminal offence and that "we will prosecute" anyone attempting to
enter by violence.
"If you want to get us out you will have to take out a summons for
possession in the county court or in the High Court, or produce to us a
written statement or certificate in terms of S.12A Criminal Law Act, 1977,"
it adds.
A moss-covered Royal Coat of Arms is engraved above the building's main door
and a sign that gives the station's opening hours remains in place, even
though it shut in 1999. Most windows are covered with chipboard or
corrugated metal sheets.
More than 20 people are living in the property, including a teaching
assistant and a Polish couple.
They have hooked up lights and heaters to a mains electricity supply and are
said to sleep in one part of the half-acre development while holding parties
in the other.
A Metropolitan Police source said: "We will be seeking an injunction because
obviously the new owners will want to have vacant possession.
"It is all very embarrassing because they are probably using the old police
showers and cooking in the police canteen."

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.