Q56: People are trespassing on my land, what can I do?
Trespass to land is a civil matter and as such the police have no jurisdiction. Under common law, the landowner has a right to re-entry on the land; however the ejection of the trespasser is fraught with danger for the landowner. Initially, the landowner should ask the occupier to leave the land and if he/she does then all is well. The problems start however, if he/she refuses to leave the land.
It is also a criminal offence under the Trespass Scotland Act 1865 for a person to lodge in premises, occupy or encamp on any private property, without the consent and permission of the owner.
Anything done by a member of the public in exercising their access rights under the Land Reform Scotland Act 2003 does not amount to trespass. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code details these rights and how they should be exercised.
The owner of the land could commit several criminal offences if he forcibly removes the trespasser and his/her property from the land. The best and safest course of action is to obtain a court order, which if breached may then turn into a criminal matter.
If the police do attend an incident such as this, they are merely there as observers for any possible criminal offences committed by either party. The police cannot assist in the removal of the trespassers or their property from the land in question.
The police do have some powers against larger groups of occupiers if damage has been caused. Trespass is very complex and guidance should be sought where appropriate.