Section 10(1) CLA 1977 creates an offence of obstructing a judicial enforcement officer effecting enforcement of a court order for recovery of possession of property.

But section 10(2) explicitly excludes, basically, residential tenants, from being able to commit this offence.

Why would it do this? Obviously and for very readily understandable reasons, residential tenants receive greatly enhanced protections under the statutory regime, with many safeguards for them to appeal against losing their home, challenge possession bids or appeal against possession orders, with which one may agree or disagree with (then whether for being excessive or insufficient), but whatever the case, Parliament clearly intended to somehow balance tenants rights to keep their homes with landlords interests in eventually being able to recover possession once all the safety valves have been exhausted, at which point the state eventually asserts its authority and will through brute judicial enforcement.

It is only common sense that when one ultimately defies a state’s assertion and exercise of its sovereign authority, they can expect to suffer punitive sanctions, such as criminal proceedings, which is exactly what s10(1) enables.

But why might s10(2) possibly negate this principle in case the disgruntled subjects of the court’s possession order being enforced had been residential tenants?

1 Answer 1


This clause is about squatting. Merlyn Rees described it at its second reading in the Commons:

Clause 7 [and subsequent clauses]—I come now to squatting—is chiefly directed at a squatter who moves into residential premises while the lawful occupier is away, for example, on holiday...

(Hansard, Criminal Law Bill Lords Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1977)

Thus the purpose of this clause is not to evict tenants who continue to hold a property after the termination of the tenancy, but to evict squatters who have entered the property without the consent of the owner.

At least in part, the limitation on the power are to not put an unreasonable burden on the police, Rees again:

An amendment was passed in another place to extend the offence to cover the execution of all orders for possession. I shall be inviting the House to restore the Bill to its original form because that power would place an unacceptable burden on the police and, in my view, would involve the police in areas in which they should not be involved.

The police, Rees argues, should not be involved in matters which are fundamentally about a financial dispute, and don't involve the dishonesty implicit in a crime.

There is other law regarding the removal of tenants at the end of their tenancy, but this is civil law, based on tort or a breach of contract rather than a crime.

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