Tue Oct 15, 2019 London
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EDITORIAL

Editorial comment from Matthew Steeples Our editor tells it like it is and he rarely minces his words

Vanquish The Vagrancy Act

Matthew Steeples joins those calling for the Vagrancy Act to be urgently repealed; homeless people need help and not hate

 

News that a 31-year-old homeless man was found dead in sub-zero temperatures last week in Birmingham is shocking enough, but that 34% of local authorities in England and Wales are continuing to use the outdated Vagrancy Act is nothing but disgraceful.

 

Made law in 1824 and designed to punish “idle and disorderly persons,” the Vagrancy Act makes it an offence to sleep rough. Around 2,000 people per year are prosecuted as a result of it and responding to calls for its abolition, Jake Berry, a minister at the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government, recently told the House of Commons: “The Government do not believe that anyone should be criminalised for simply sleeping rough, but equally we should not rush to a wholesale repeal of the 1824 Act without proper consideration of the consequences.”

 

He unsympathetically added: “[It is] sometimes the only option to get someone off the street when they have become dependent on begging income to support their drug or alcohol dependency.”

 

In response, Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at Centrepoint, remarked: “The act does nothing to end homelessness and contributes to the shame and stigma associated with it.”

 

With nearly 600 people having died whilst homeless last year and Labour rightly calling for the repeal of this unjust law, it is time Theresa May also joined those supporting Layla Moran MP’s private member’s bill to repeal this Dickensian legislation. Genuinely homeless people need help and not hatefulness.

 

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Comments

3 comments on “Vanquish The Vagrancy Act”

  1. I do feel that the 1824 Act belongs in the past, not in our society today. In our hearts most of us feel for the homeless, so why stigmatise them in legislation?
    I wonder, what are the tools/practices now available to us? I saw a man passed out on drugs or alcohol outside a Tesco on a high street in London, as I was driving, and I wondered, what is the right course of action? What would the police do? What would the ambulance do? Is it true that the homeless with addictions refuse to use charity shelters because they can’t use drugs there, so they run away from shelters back into the street? What is the best way to help them, in practice?

  2. It’s an absolute disgrace and a national tragedy when a person doesn’t have a roof over their head in a supposed civilised society. Each time I see one of these people, I wonder what their story is, yes I know a small proportion are there for the wrong reasons. But the majority don’t choose to live like that, who would? They have a all sorts of problems including mental health issues. It makes my blood boil when I see the extravagance and waste of politicians, and also the last two Royal weddings, when a couple of miles away people are living in cardboard boxes. The next time any of us see one of these Human beings, yes that’s right, they are Human beings. Stop and think, there but for the grace of God go I.

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