When he enters your home, is Father Christmas actually trespassing? If he does so without your expressed permission, could he be prosecuted? Whilst he is likely to be a welcome guest, it arguably raises a number of important issues when it comes to uninvited visitors over the festive season.
Louise Newbould-Walton, Associate Solicitor at DAS Law, is here to explain what you need to know about the laws regarding trespassing on private property…
What is trespassing?
The legal term for trespassing is unlawful entry of one person on to another person’s property. If expressed or written permission is not given by the land owner, then anyone who is caught on this land without permission is trespassing.
In the case of Father Christmas, however, a letter from a child asking for presents might be just be enough to constitute the written permission required for him to enter a home, providing he leaves quickly and quietly.
Can I remove a trespasser from my property?
If someone is considered to be trespassing, the first call of action is to ask them to leave. If the person refuses, then a land owner is allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to remove them. However, what ‘reasonable force’ means depends on the situation; land owners are not, for example, permitted to use weapons to remove a trespasser – this would be deemed excessive force and would likely constitute assault.
With regards to Father Christmas then don’t worry; he won’t be sticking around as he’s got a lot to do.
What is the punishment for trespassing?
The punishment for trespassing is dependent upon the severity of the offence. Trespassing is generally considered a civil offence with police having no authority to arrest a trespasser but they may help you remove them.
If the trespasser is accused of aggravated trespassing, then the maximum punishment is three months imprisonment, whereas first-time offenders are likely to receive a fine between £200-£300. If the trespasser is accused of trespassing with the intent to commit theft, then the punishment can be up to seven years imprisonment.
Although Father Christmas will be laden with goods, don’t forget that he’s bringing gifts - not taking them away – so he’s likely to be in the clear here.
Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.