21 July 2020

Criminalisation of Trespass

Government Consultation on Criminalising Trespass

As many of you may be aware, the rules on trespass are currently subject to a Home Office consultation, with proposals that could see trespass transformed from a civil offence to a criminal offence.

One of the widely cited Government reasons for this is to strengthen police powers to break up unauthorised long-standing encampments (for example, traveller encampments). However, several organisations, including the British Mountaineering Council and the Ramblers Association have noted that there could be additional consequences for those participating in outdoor recreational activities including walking and wild camping. We have been paying close attention to this, as there could be consequences for caving too, in our region and nationally.

Some useful perspectives:

Opinions vary from opposing the changes completely, to pushing for radical clarification of its intentions and seeking safeguards to ensure those innocently enjoying ourdoor recreation do not find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

For those intent on blocking the change outright, there is currently a petition on the Government website (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300139) and it will be interesting to see how this evolves.

The CNCC therefore share the concerns about this situation and its potential impact for countryside access.

Over the past few years we have built upon good relationships with landowners to derestrict caving on many of the open-access fells in our region. We would therefore like to think that such a change in the law wouldn’t be used against us. In fact, many of our landowners have a very positive view of cavers and their responsible enjoyment of the countryside. However, we are nonetheless concerned that these changes, without appropriate safeguards, could represent a backward step for promoting outdoor recreation and could instigate fear that in accessing the outdoors you risk a criminal offense. Any such change could discourage participating in caving.

The CNCC responded to the Government consultation on this earlier in the year along these lines, mirroring the concerns expressed by our sister organisation, and it is something we are going to watch very closely over the coming months. We urge all cavers to do the same and to be prepared to make your views known.

Photo: Cavers on Fountains Fell, access land. However, with the current reluctance of DEFRA and Natural England to accept caving as a CRoW permitted activity, could these changes to the law result in Government bodies deeming caving on access land to be a criminal offence? Photo by Gary Douthwaite.


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