A law that criminalizes begging and sleeping on the streets has been used to bring people to court more than 100 times in Hertfordshire in almost six years.
Homeless charity Crisis says the ‘cruel’ vagrancy law – which the Housing Secretary said six months ago should be abolished – keeps vulnerable people away from support and can keep them on the streets Longer.
The law, created in the early 1800s, provides that anyone prosecuted can face a fine of up to £ 1,000 and a criminal record.
Figures obtained from a RADAR access to information request reveal that between April 2015 and December 2020, Hertfordshire Constabulary laid 117 charges which resulted in court hearings, using the two most commonly used articles of the law.
About two-thirds were for begging (violations of article 3), the rest for sleeping in the street or being in an enclosed space without authorization (article 4).
The Crown Prosecution Service, which provided the figures, said the coronavirus pandemic had an impact on the volume of cases handled by courts in England and Wales last spring.
There were only two court cases under the Hertfordshire Vagrancy Act between April and December last year.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told the House of Commons in February that the law should be “made history.”
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said the charity was encouraged by Mr Jenrick’s comments, but was disappointed that the “offensive and counterproductive law” remained in place.
He said: “We all agree that the cruel and unnecessary vagrancy law should be done away with, but it is still used week after week with devastating consequences.
“Fining people who already have next to nothing is unnecessary and only takes them further away from support, often keeping them on the streets longer. ”
CPS figures show that there were 11,700 hearings for breaches of sections 3 and 4 of the Vagrancy Act in England and Wales between April 2015 and December 2020 – of which 700 took place over the last few years. nine months before the end of last year.
Shadow Housing Minister Mike Amesbury said the “outdated” legislation criminalized people who lost their homes.
He added: “Stable and secure housing underpins opportunities, saving lives and livelihoods.
“It is in everyone’s best interests that ministers focus on ending homelessness through support, prevention and stronger legislation to protect tenants.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The government is clear that no one should be criminalized just for having nowhere to live and the time has come to reconsider the vagrancy law. .
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This notice was published: 2021-09-02 06:00:00