This paper focuses on a recent public consultation to criminalise trespass in England and Wales. Through an analysis of the consultation discourse and documentary evidence, we argue that the government has used this process to manufacture a mandate for criminalisation. We show how the construction of democratic support has been achieved by: Pre-coding responses in the initial call for evidence; distorting evidence in the response; and utilizing ‘state simplifications’ which foreground hostile and racist sentiments whilst presenting sedentarisation as in the ‘best interests’ of nomadic communities. While the 2018/19 consultation is only the most recent in a long history of civilising offensives against Gypsy-Travellers, as well as other ‘unfixed’ communities, this particular move to criminalise trespass and attack nomadic heritage is also further evidence of the UK government’s steady formalization of property ownership: moving away from considering property ‘use’ on the ground towards an abstracted registration system de-rooted from place. This denies long-standing rights to roam and non-normative modes of inhabitation, thereby pushing property relations in a direction that rarely benefits those on the housing margins. We foreground an alternative to criminalisation, pointing towards a recent pragmatic, bottom-up policy of ‘negotiated stopping’ in Leeds in northern England. This builds upon dialogue and cooperation in avoiding costly and disruptive eviction and criminalisation processes, but also potentially creates spaces and opportunities for more positive urban encounters with difference.
Burgum, S., Jones, H., & Powell, R. (2022). Manufacturing mandates: Property, race, and the criminalisation of trespass in England and Wales. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. https://doi.org/10.1177/23996544211067381