William Eichler 02 March 2016

Councils are criminalising the homeless, FoI requests reveal

Local authorities are using banning orders to criminalise the homeless, Freedom of Information requests reveal.

Submitted by the news outlet VICE, the FoI requests found one in 10 councils have introduced policies banning behaviour linked to homelessness.

VICE also learnt town halls are using new powers to criminalise things, such as swearing in public, that are not illegal.

The bans, known as public spaces protection orders (PSPOs), were introduced by the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.

They enable councillors to ban any activities which they consider have a ‘detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’.

Breaking a PSPO can lead to a £100 fine, and if this isn’t paid the offender can be charged with a criminal offence and fined £1000.

In June 2015, Hackney Council used a PSPO to ban rough sleeping and begging, although they soon dropped it after 80,000 people signed a petition opposing the policy.

The London borough of Lambeth used the banning order to stop the use and supply of legal highs in public areas after a teenager died from inhaling laughing gas.

Last August, Salford City Council also introduced a PSPO in order to crack down on people jumping from bridges, throwing objects into the water, using bad language and urinating in public.

The FoI revelations came shortly after Crisis, the charity for homeless people, revealed 3,569 people were found sleeping rough on any given night in England in 2015, an increase of 30% on the previous year.

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