Local authorities accused of criminalising homeless

According to VICE, results from a series of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests suggest that councils are using certain laws to prosecute homeless people.

The FoI requests revealed that one in 10 councils had introduced policies banning behaviour which is linked to homelessness. It also found that some town halls are using new powers to criminalise acts such as swearing in public which are not illegal.

The policies are known as public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) and were introduced by the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. The Act enables councillors to ban activities which they consider to have a ‘detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality’.

People who are caught breaking a PSPS can be punished with a £100 fine, which, if left unpaid can result in a criminal offence and a larger penalty of £1,000.

Such policies have been used in Hackney to ban rough sleeping and begging, and in Lambeth to stop the use of legal highs such as laughing gas.

The news follows revelations by homeless charity Crisis, which found that 3,569 people were found sleeping rough on any given night in England in 2015, a 20 per cent increase on the previous year.