Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted

In olden days – forty years ago – people who owned land and wanted to keep the publi c out put up signs which bore the inscription “trespassers will be prosecuted”. It was a bluff; trespass was not a criminal offence, but a tort, and you could no more prosecute someone who trespassed on your land than you could prosecute a bird for flying over it or landing on it.

Eventually people came to understand that the signs were mere bluffs, so took liberties, as people do, with the land of others; they trespassed, and started parking their cars on the land of others.

From this led to the use of wheel clamps, often fitted by unsavoury types who demanded money for the release of the clamps with menaces. There is now a whole and complex body of law covering trespass on land. From wheel clamping to hiking, from holding an open air concert or dance to travelling folk setting up homes on land in breach of planning laws,  and a host of other regulations, laws, rights, duties and legislation, all of which has replaced the simple signs that displayed “trespassers will be prosecuted”.

At the same time people complain about the complexity of law; I too complain about the complexity of law, but so much law and is complexity is established because of the complexity of human behaviour. One person takes advantage of another person and we then need regulations to try to strike a fair balance between competing rights.

Ultimately the problem is that many want to assert rights without being willing to shoulder the obligations which all rights bring.