Trespass Law | General Exploring Chat Forum | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Trespass Law


Disclaimer: This information is provided with no guarantee of accuracy, and does not represent a legal opinion - if in doubt, consult a solicitor.

Civil Trespass: Civil trespass, also known as "simple" trespass, is not a criminal offence in the UK. You cannot be arrested for civil trespass, though police may attend if there's a possibility that another offence has been committed or will be committed. In England and Wales, you can be sued by the landowner in a civil court for trespass, in Scotland you can only be sued if actual damage was caused. Repeat trespass could be prevented if a landowner takes out an injunction, but this is unlikely in urbex situations.

Aggravated Trespass: This applies to trespass committed with the intent to intimidate or disrupt people taking part in a lawful activity. If you trespass on a golf course to move the flags, it's aggravated trespass. Generally, this does not concern urbexers. You cannot be prosecuted for aggravated trespass where there is no activity to disrupt, so it does not apply to derelict sites. It would only apply to live sites if you intended to cause disruption.

Criminal Trespass: One type of this offence applies to a specific list of sites, including defence sites, nuclear power stations and royal palaces. The full list can be found here. Another type applies to sites where bye-laws forbid trespass - these include MOD property, railway property, and perhaps other sites like power stations. There is no centralised list of bye-laws, unfortunately, but this site lists MOD bye-laws. A third type of criminal trespass applies to Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
From an urbex point-of-view, it is a good idea to stay away from any active military, nuclear, royal, utility or railway property - pretty much common sense.

Burglary: This applies to trespass with intent to steal, commit criminal damage, rape or inflict GBH. All the police need to do to justify arrest is to show that they reasonably expected that you had intent to commit one of these acts. Intent could cover such things as carrying tools, carrying a "swag" bag, or theoretically even taking pictures of valuable objects. It is unlikely that you would be charged, however, unless you did actually steal or cause criminal damage. From an urbex point-of-view, it is important to do nothing which would give the police any idea that you are there to do anything other than take pictures. Burglary can also be called Breaking and Entering or Housebreaking.

Theft: This should be blatantly obvious. It is a criminal offence to take anything which belongs to someone else. From an urbex point-of-view, it is a very bad idea to take anything whatsoever from any site. As an aside, it has been ruled that theft does not apply to information - photographing documents, plans, or indeed sites would not be classed as theft - though data protection, copyright or official secrets legislation may apply to some types of information.

Criminal Damage: This is where someone intentionally or recklessly causes damage to another person's property, or intends to do such damage. It covers such things as graffiti, arson, and vandalism. Intent includes posessing an item with the intention to use it to damage or destroy property - carrying a chisel for levering open windows, for example. From an urbex point-of-view, this means that you should never do any damage. Case law is mixed on details - for example temporarily unscrewing a panel to get in, then replacing it afterwards may not count as damage, but it's certainly not advisable.

Breach of the Peace: This is a very wide-ranging offence, covering any activity liable to cause distress or alarm to a member of the public. This could include refusing to leave a site when asked by security, or perhaps even showing off - swinging from a bridge, for example. In Scotland, the definition also includes "annoyance", making it even wider-ranging. From an urbex point-of-view, being polite and civil and leaving when asked will avoid most problems under this law.

Manufacture and Storage of Explosives: MSER 2005 covers any site used for the manufacture and/or storage of explosives, including fireworks. This makes it an offence to enter any site covered by MSER. Sites are covered by MSER until the Health & Safety Executive has determined that there are no explosives or explosives residues left on the site. From an urbex point-of-view, this covers any ordnance factories or explosives manufacturing sites that are still live, or which have not been completely decommissioned, and visiting them is not to be recommended.

This is a start - any more ideas or corrections would be welcome...
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28DL Memb3r
28DL Full Member
Breach of Peace –Not really an issue unless you kick up a fuss or a scene, but note if for example you climb a bridge and they have to close it then you have become a noticeable nuisance.

Vagrancy Act- normally quoted as “been in an enclosed (/inclosed) place”. Another one used to take people down to the station for the night, note the law http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&title=Vagrancy+Act&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&sortAlpha=0&TYPE=QS&PageNumber=1&NavFrom=0&parentActiveTextDocId=1029462&ActiveTextDocId=1029464&filesize=52710 actually states “for any unlawful purpose”. That should be a get out clause and the fact that you (probably) aren’t a vagrant.

Also note that what ever the law is, the police may take you away and keep you in overnight. They may try to pin stuff on you or just give you a night in the cells then release without charge on a “you wasted out time so we’ll waste yours”.
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Stay Safe
A little research into the area you intend to 'explore' should tell you if it is covered by Laws of Trespass other than 'Common Law'

If a policeman wants to hold you he can of course arrest you for any of the above and a good few others which vaguely matches the situation! Its called 'Arrest without Warrant' and telling him you know your rights will make no differance whatsoever. He can do this just by seeing you walking down the street dressed in combats with a rucksack and coil of rope!

Arresting a suspect (Arrest without a warrant)

Must have reasonable and probable grounds to arrest a suspect. [Ho Ho Ho]

If reasonable and probable grounds exist:

Arrest the suspect
Specify the offence [Can be changed later anyway and is known as the Holding Offence]
Advise of rights and caution
Search the suspect incidental to arrest and collect:
Tools of Escape or Self Injury (err well everything really including your shoes & belt)
Handcuff if necessary. [or just to be bloody minded]

You can't be kept at a police station for more than 24 hours without being formally charged, although this can be extended to 36 hours with the authority of a police superintendent, and longer with the authority of a magistrate. [still without charge, but at least now PC Plod needs to explain himself]

The one exception is for arrests under the Terrorism Act, where you can be held without charge for up to seven days. Then you must be seen by a magistrate.
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Two things to be aware of (1) BTP are not like the normal old bill, they WILL Prosecute you, full stop, no argument because they are quite busy these days and will not take kindly to having to deal with you, so they are not in the mood to issue a warning, and (2) there are a number of security issues affecting the railways right now. If (when) you get caught, you can expect to spend some time in a cell and your house/flat WILL be thoroughly searched. You could also well find yourself the wrong side of a S43/S44 stop and search because you have no excuse for being where you are and you will be treated as either on the rob, or sussing the place out for whatever reason.
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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member

Also useful PACE on powers of stop and search http://www.uk-legislation.hmso.gov.uk/RevisedStatutes/Acts/ukpga/1984/cukpga_19840060_en_2#pt1-l1g1 Worth reading 3 (3) over and over - you don't have to give your name if searched.

(That site is a good place to read Section 43 and 44 (and 58) of the terrorism act

And finally home office on harassing photographershttp://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/publications/home-office-circulars/circulars-2009/012-2009/
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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
This is a problem where the law contradicts itself. Because under the 9 necessity reasons for arrest, failure to give name and address is one of them.
Not quite. Section 24 - as updated reads.
(1)A constable may arrest without a warrant—.
(a)anyone who is about to commit an offence;.
(b)anyone who is in the act of committing an offence;.
(c)anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be about to commit an offence;.
(d)anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an offence.
(2)If a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, he may arrest without a warrant anyone whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of it..
(3)If an offence has been committed, a constable may arrest without a warrant—.
(a)anyone who is guilty of the offence;.
(b)anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be guilty of it.

So that's all the permutations of timing, actually committing and reasonable grounds for suspecting. Trespass (in most circumstances) is not something for which you can be arrested. Preparing to or having stolen from or damaged it you could be arrested.

But it goes on:
the power of summary arrest conferred by subsection (1), (2) or (3) is exercisable only if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that for any of the reasons mentioned in subsection (5) it is necessary to arrest the person in question.

Which is where the reasons come in. If you have committed an arrestable offence and won't give your name you should expect to be arrested. Even when arrested you do not have to say anything.
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28DL Member
28DL Member
Here is the info according to CAB (Citizens advice Bureau)....


If there is no right of way or other legal right of access, a person entering another person's land without her/his express or implied permission is trespassing. Throwing an object on to land and shooting over land are also forms of trespass. However, causing noise or vibrations on another person's land are not trespass (although they might constitute a nuisance).

Trespass is not usually a criminal offence, except in certain circumstances. It is instead a tort, that is, a civil wrong and, unless the landowner can prove real damage to her/his property, s/he could probably only recover nominal damages by taking legal action. The trespasser might, however, have to meet the landowner's legal costs.

Criminal trespass

It is a criminal offence to trespass on certain types of land, for example, some military training land and railway land. In addition, it is an offence to trespass on a designated site. The Home Secretary may designate a site if it is Crown land or privately owned by the monarch or immediate heir to the Throne, or it is appropriate in the interests of national security.

Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, it is a criminal offence for two or more people to trespass on land if they have been requested to leave by the occupier of the land, or by someone acting on her/his behalf. This legislation is most commonly used by the police in relation to Gypsies and Travellers. The police can direct the trespassers to leave the land if:-

• any or all of the trespassers has caused damage to the land or property on the land; or

• any or all of the trespassers has used threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour or words towards the occupier, a member of her/his family, or her/his employee or agent; or

• the trespassers have, among them, six or more vehicles on the land; or

• there is a suitable pitch available on a caravan site in the local authority area.

If a person has been directed to leave the land by a police officer and s/he refuses to do so, or if s/he leaves but returns within three months, s/he commits the offence of criminal trespass.

Police Law

Aggravated trespass

A person commits an offence of aggravated trespass if s/he trespasses on land in the open air, and:-

• intimidates other people in order to deter them from engaging in a lawful activity; or

• obstructs or disrupts other people engaging in a lawful activity.

The police have the power to order a person whom they believe is committing, has committed or intends to commit aggravated trespass, to leave. The police are most likely to use this power in relation to hunt saboteurs. The order to leave must be given by the most senior police officer present. If the person fails to leave the land, or re-enters within three months, s/he commits a criminal offence.

In one case it was decided that people who had trespassed on land to deliberately damage genetically modified crops had not committed aggravated trespass. This decision was based on the fact that those who owned the crops were not present when the damage occurred, and that they were not, therefore, intimidated, obstructed or disrupted.

Trespassory assemblies

A trespassory assembly is an assembly of at least 20 people on land to which there is no or limited right of public access, which takes place without the permission of the owner or occupier of the land. The police have powers to prohibit such an assembly.

If the police believe that a trespassory assembly is to be held on land, and that it may result in either serious disruption to life in the community or significant damage to land, buildings or monuments of historical, architectural, archaeological or scientific importance, they can apply to the local authority for an order prohibiting it. A prohibiting order can last for up to four days and cover an area up to five miles around a specified point.

It is a criminal offence for someone to organise, take part in, or incite another person to take part in, an assembly that is subject to a prohibiting order.

The police can stop a person who they believe is on her/his way to a prohibited assembly anywhere within the area subject to a prohibiting order, and direct her/him not to proceed. If the person continues, s/he commits a criminal offence.

Hope that helps somewhat....


Oxygen Thief

Staff member
I mean Military sites are a serious no go, but are UK rail lines a proper criminal offence?...
100% a criminal offence in it's own right. Just being there is enough with no other aggravation.

Last time I was caught the policeman waxed lyrical about legislation against individuals "being found in an enclosed space" and said it was really old legislation they've started using for that sort of situation. Can anyone elaborate or give me the name of the act?
It's the Vagrancy act 1824... http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo4/5/83/section/4

"every person being found in or upon any dwelling house, warehouse, coach-house, stable, or outhouse, or in any inclosed yard, garden, or area, for any unlawful purpose;"

The filth will arrest you for it, but as you were not there for an unlawful purpose, it'll be a night in the cells and kicked out in the morning.

Here's how it's abused by the Police...

Last time I dealt with a trespasser we arrested him for "being found in an enclosed space" (Vagrancy act), removed him to a local police station and then de arrested him and sent him on his way. However normally the police have no powers to act


Stay Safe
Basically what I have been saying, 'most' MoD land is no different to any other case of 'Civil Trespass' it is only the more active bases that have currant bye-laws in place such as RAF Menworth Hill in North Yorkshire (and RAF Filingdales) which has one of the most secure perimeters in the UK with remote inferred & CCTV plus motion detectors! which can tell the differance between foxes, sheep & people! plus floodlights which can be turned on to supplement the Inferred cameras. The whole parimiter has a 5 minute reaction time (max) This harks back to the Greenham Common & Harrogate Womens Camps of which Harrogate lasted the longest! It still has a 5 mile exclusion zone (which used to also cover HMS Forest Moor and still does Pennypot Camp) which stops even travellers stopping overnight.

An Ammunition (Explosives) [such as DM Kineton] or Petroleum Depot [such DSDA Westmoors] or Compound or Active Military Airfield are covered by the same Acts of Parliament as their civilian equivalents, as are Military Railways & Ports. Large Storage Depots such as DSDA Donnington & DSDA Bicester (excludes RAF Bicester) are covered by thier own Bye-Laws

Abandoned camps are pretty low down on the MoD's agenda, and some are either already sold, or contracted out to private secuity.

Do not even take the presance of an armed patrol to think it has any greater powers. The guards have very strict 'rules of engagement' on the mainland UK as do armed police.

But like TBM says about the Railways, the MoD concentrats on its more Active Parts....
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Cave Monster
28DL Full Member
Just found a nice little PDF summarising tresspass law from Best of Both Worlds, outdoor pursuits website. I must stress though, this is aimed at walkers etc. but maybe useful for our purposes.

EDIT: Just found another one, HERE, about trespass to land.

Hope this helps!
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28DL Full Member
Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982:

57 Being in or on building etc. with intent to commit theft.

(1) Any person who, without lawful authority to be there, is found in or on a building or other premises, whether enclosed or not, or in its curtilage or in a vehicle or vessel so that, in all the circumstances, it may reasonably be inferred that he intended to commit theft there shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 months or to both.
Obviously this only applies to Scotland, don't know if there are similar laws in the rest of the UK.


off the wall
Regular User
Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982:

Obviously this only applies to Scotland, don't know if there are similar laws in the rest of the UK.

Well, its still all the same to me, until 'tweedle dum and tweedle dee' in government change the civil trespass into criminal trespass... (if it ever happens).
Basically, in my opinion a lot depends on the mood of the security/police who turn up to confront you.

I recently got details taken for simply 'sitting on a wall'... wasnt even in the grounds ffs.

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