Squatting will become a criminal offence tomorrow when the new laws of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Offenders Act come into effect.

Under the new laws squatters face a prison sentence of up to six months and a £5,000 fine for entering someone's home.

Leslie Morphy, the Chief Executive of homeless charity Crisis, says the fear is that criminalising squatting will affect "a lot of very vulnerable people" who would end up in prison or with fines they were unable to pay.

"We fear [squatters] will end up on the streets and that really is the last place we want anyone to end up".

However Prisons and Probation Minister Crispin Blunt rejects the idea criminalising squatting will target the UK's most vulnerable people saying, "we're not going to have a strategy saying you can nick someone elses house as a short cut ...squatting is not a solution to homelessness".

People who have been affected by squatters were dubious of the new law. Julia High, whose house was occupied by Romanian gyspies, says that she does not think that the new laws will change anything.

"If you think that squatting is acceptable behaviour, then being branded a criminal is probably not going to make much difference to you," she said.

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