Homeless people could be "criminalised" and "penalised" as UK councils attempt to crack down on begging, it has been claimed.
in 2014, Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) let local authorities
tackle anti-social behaviour they deem to be "detrimental to the local
community's quality of life".
Under a PSPO introduced by
South Tyneside Council, a £100 fine can be handed to those deemed to be
begging - prompting fears the homeless could be "penalised" for
accepting a donation.
Christopher Fuller of St Hilda's Church in South Shields said he
understood the orders were being "introduced by lots of local
authorities across the country".
said: "My concern is that people who are vulnerable, but also people
who are good-willed ... they see someone sitting on the street and have a
pang of conscience and want to get them a tea, coffee or sandwich.
buy them something and innocently give it to them, without the
vulnerable person necessarily saying anything - they could potentially
get fined £100."
There are a number of PSPOs in place
across the borough of South Tyneside that it is claimed target both
alcohol consumption and begging.
Notices of their
imposition were put up in the areas where the orders applied, but South
Tyneside Council said these have since been removed.
orders forbid "verbal, non-verbal or written requests, including the
placing of hats or containers for money, donations or goods".
Fuller said: "The problem is if these individuals begging on the
streets get fined £100, where is this money going to come from? They
certainly won't have it themselves."
He agreed there was a
need to stop people drinking on the streets and causing anti-social
behaviour, but said: "Someone just sitting quietly wanting money isn't
that big an issue."
Councillor Allan West, lead member for
housing and transport, said no fines had been issued for begging and
that tackling homelessness was a "core priority".
"These orders are in no way aimed at people in genuine hardship.
However, we understand that the posters may have been open to
"We have taken on-board people's concerns and these posters are no longer in circulation."
Appleton, director of the Manifesto Club think tank, said the homeless
were the "main victims" of PSPOs, which she said allows councils to
"criminalise" behaviour they believe detrimentally affects life quality.
is a very subjective category in which people take to mean anything
they don't like or because they think something looks messy," she said.
people are not being treated as citizens. They are having a complete
stripping of any kind of respect or rights to be in a space."
said although there had been lots of orders - with a variety of
"innocuous" activities banned around the UK under PSPOs - the group that
had suffered the most was the homeless.
has been consulting on banning begging and Sunderland City Council has
considered banning "bin-raking" - the action of searching and taking of
unwanted items from bins.
Southampton City Council have
PSPOs in place that prohibit "loitering for the purpose of begging" or
"begging or asking members of the public for money" in designated areas.
Rushcliffe Borough Council has approved a PSPO aimed at tackling
anti-social behaviours associated with "with street-drinking and rough
The council said they were taking a "proactive
approach" to homelessness and that issuing a £100 fixed penalty notice
was a "last resort".
Rosie Brighouse, legal officer for the
Liberty human rights organisation, said the orders were "increasingly
being used to criminalise the very people authorities should be
She said: "These orders are blunt instruments,
incapable of addressing the many complex issues that may lead people to
beg or sleep rough."
Calling PSPOs against the homeless
"absurd", she said: "As Christmas approaches and temperatures drop,
councils considering using these powers should turn their focus to
helping, not penalising, the homeless."