Local MP backs student homelessness petition

The call to repeal the Vagrancy Act is due to receive a government response

Source: Wikipedia

Layla Moran MP has supported Oxford SU’s petition to end the Vagrancy Act of 1824.

The ‘On Your Doorstep’ campaign is pressuring the government to end the nineteenth century law, which gives police the power to arrest any person found begging or sleeping rough in public.

At the time of print, the petition had almost 14,000 signatures, meaning it will receive a government response.

The Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon said: “The treatment of people homeless and sleeping rough across the UK and in Oxford is getting worse and worse, with more of an emphasis seemingly put on punitive measures and not nearly enough on support.

“We have found that not nearly enough is being done to tackle homelessness, but more than this, the money that is being spent isn’t being used effectively either.

“We need more money…that will be spent fixing the core root of the problem and looks at why people are homeless in the first place.”

The Chair of the ‘On Your Doorstep’ campaign, Alex Kumar, started the petition. He told Cherwell: “We appreciate of the support of the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon.

“The Vagrancy Act is an abominable law, and I am confi dent that we may build a popular front in opposition to it; within the Labour Party, past calls for its repeal have come form such disparate MPs as Jeremy Corbyn and Frank Field.

“Now is the time to rally together and force the issue. I urge all MPs who are ready to move beyond the persecutory anti-homeless laws of the nineteenth century.”

The Liberal Democrats made repealing the Vagrancy Act party policy at their Autumn 2016 conference.

They passed the ‘End to Homlessness’ motion which noted the requirement for more social and affordable housing.

Finn Conway, Treasurer of Oxford University Liberal Democrats (OULD), told Cherwell: “We’re thrilled that Layla has endorsed On Your Doorstep’s petition…we’re very happy to see this issue gaining momentum theway it is.

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“The homelessness crisis in Oxford is one of the worst in the country, with the number of people sleeping rough here almost doubling in the last year alone.

“Since the City Council is failing to address [these problems] sufficiently, it falls on MPs like Layla to take these issues to a national level to get things done.

“We have utmost confidence in her ability to champion this issue and effect real change to help some of the worst off in society.”

In 2014 and 2015, 3,071 homeless people were brought before courts under the Act. The legislation also permits the police to ask the homeless to move along. The Vagrancy Act has already been repealed in Scotland and Ireland.

‘On Your Doorstep’ have also launched another petition aimed at Oxford City Council, which has now received more than 36,000 signatures.

It campaigns to change the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) so that it is activated on every night with sub-zero temperature forecasts, rather than when three consecutive nights are scheduled to be freezing.

In November of last year, 61 people were sleeping rough in Oxford, the highest recorded figure in the city’s history.

1 COMMENT

  1. I think that the article must have been put to print before the Government’s response, which you can see at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/205388 and also at the end of the comment (you should sign this).

    Also, it’s worth noting that the supposedly progrerssive local Labour council has pushed through PSPOs designed to criminalise the homeless, and I have to ask how the !€%*@? they supposed to pay £250 fines.

    If I may rant slightly, the local Labour councillers have acted like Tories rather than Corbyn with regards how they treated the homeless, having also pushed through cuts on the homeless shelters while proposing a massive amount of spending on a new park and ride (I know the central government cut their funds but they could have raised council tax instead to push the cuts off), vote them out in May and vote for the Greens instead (or I guess the Lib Dems).

    And here’s the quote from the Tories acting, well like Tories!

    “This legislation remains in force and in use. The Government currently has no plans to make changes to the law.

    This Government has committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027. To achieve this, we have established a Rough Sleeping and Homelessness Reduction Taskforce who, with the support of an expert Advisory Panel, will drive forward the implementation of a cross-Government strategy. Enforcement can form part of moving someone away from the streets but it should also come with an offer of meaningful support. In developing the strategy, the Taskforce and Advisory Panel will consider a range of measures to support rough sleepers off the streets, including enforcement measures where appropriate.

    Under sections 3 and 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824, begging and persistent begging in a public place are arrestable offences. They are also recordable offences which enables the police to identify repeat offenders. Decisions on arrests are an operational matter for the police, in line with their duties to keep the peace, to protect communities, and to prevent the commission of offences, working within the provisions of the legal framework set by Parliament (or, as appropriate, the common law).

    It is an operational decision for the police following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, whether or not an offence reaches the threshold required for prosecution under the relevant legislation.

    If any person whilst begging uses threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby then they could be prosecuted for an offence under the Public Order Act 1986 and if convicted are liable to be fined. There are also a range of offences under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 which are available if violence is used by a beggar.

    The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) which place restrictions or impose conditions on activities that people may carry out in a designated area. These replaced the use of Anti-social Behaviour Orders. PSPOs should not be used to target people based solely on the fact that someone is homeless or rough sleeping, as this in itself is unlikely to mean that such behaviour is having an unreasonably detrimental effect on the community’s quality of life which justifies the restrictions imposed. Councils may receive complaints about homeless people, but they should consider whether the use of a PSPO is the appropriate response. These Orders should be used only to address any specific behaviour that is causing a detrimental effect on the community’s quality of life which is beyond the control of the person concerned.

    Councils should therefore consider carefully the nature of any potential PSPO that may impact on homeless people and rough sleepers. It is recommended that any Order defines precisely the specific activity or behaviour that is having the detrimental impact on the community. Councils should also consider measures that tackle the root causes of the behaviour, such as the provision of public toilets.

    The council should also consider consulting with national or local homeless charities when considering restrictions or requirements which may impact on homeless people and rough sleepers.

    Home Office”

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