Wirral MP speaks out against proposed changes to law on trespass that could impact on those who love the great outdoors
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23 Apr 2021
Margaret Greenwood, the MP for Wirral West, has spoken in a parliamentary debate on a popular petition which called on the government not to criminalise trespass.
Last year, a petition was set-up on the Parliament website in response to a pledge in the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto to ‘make intentional trespass a criminal offence’.
The petition voiced concerns that changing trespass, which has traditionally been a civil offence, to a criminal offence, could ‘criminalise ramblers who stray even slightly from the path’ and ‘criminalise wild camping, denying hikers a night under the stars’.
The petition can be seen here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300139
It was signed by nearly 135,000 people, including more than 500 from across Wirral.
Since then, the government has published its controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
In fact, the bill would not criminalise all trespass, but it is designed to criminalise the act of trespassing when making an unauthorised encampment. This could impact on people who enjoy wild camping, for example.
Last month more than 250 charities and organisations wrote to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Justice, warning that the bill ‘has implications for the public’s right to protest, access to the countryside and people experiencing homelessness’.
The civil liberties organisation Liberty has also warned that the provisions of the bill will ‘impact access to the countryside and affect the enjoyment of British land for recreational activities.’
Meanwhile, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has said that the bill risks ‘putting a ‘do not enter’ sign across the country and further limiting access to the very green spaces that enrich all of our lives’.
The walking charity The Ramblers has also argued that the lack of clear definitions in the legislation could ‘serve to increase tensions between landowners and those accessing the outdoors’.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said:
“Access to the countryside is incredibly important for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
“We have a great tradition of valuing our natural landscapes in this country and it’s enjoyed by people of all ages, whether through engaging in outdoor activities such as walking, cycling, kayaking or mountaineering, or touring to enjoy the scenery.
“When we reflect on all that we have to enjoy, it is important to consider the invaluable work of individual conservationists, campaigners and protest groups that have ensured that we can access those beautiful places.
“Individuals like the writer Beatrix Potter, who left 4,000 acres of land and countryside to the National Trust when she died in 1943.
“Campaigners like the working people of Manchester and elsewhere who took part in the famous mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932. This led to legislation brought in by Clement Atlee’s Labour Government in 1949 establishing the National Parks that we now enjoy, such as the Lake District, the Peak District and Snowdonia.
“In Wirral West, we are fortunate to have Caldy Hill, Thurstaston Common, Irby Hill and Harrock Wood, all owned and cared for by the National Trust, which does such an important job preserving such areas for us to enjoy.
“The fact that more than 500 people in Wirral, and nearly 135,000 across the country signed the petition on the Parliament website shows the strength of feeling on this issue both locally and nationally.
“While the government’s bill would not criminalise all trespass, it is designed to criminalise the act of trespassing when making an unauthorised encampment.
“This is despite the National Police Chiefs Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners stating quite clearly that ‘trespass is a civil offence and our view is that it should remain so’ and that ‘no new criminal trespass offence is required’.
“It is very clear that charities and members of the public still hold profound concerns about the provisions in the bill and what it could mean for our access to the countryside.
“It is important that access to the countryside is protected for us all.”
You can read Margaret Greenwood’s speech here: https://tinyurl.com/eza8fzjf
You can watch Margaret Greenwood’s speech via this link: https://tinyurl.com/d5n27vf7