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UK People caught begging or sleeping rough face £100 council fines
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People sleeping rough in locations across England face being fined at least £100 by councils using controversial banning orders. 

Human rights organisations have hit out at local authorities for threatening people with fines for sleeping on the street or begging by using so-called PSPOs

Public Space Protection Orders were introduced in 2014 and give councils powers to fine people for behaviour that would not normally be considered criminal.

But a Freedom of Information request by shows more than a dozen have used them to threaten people with fines for begging, while at least four have powers to fine people for sleeping rough.

The councils say the orders were introduced to tackle anti-social behaviour but homeless charities say they risk making things tougher for already vulnerable people.

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, said the statistic was particularly concerning given a rise of 51% in rough sleepers across England.
‘It is unacceptable that people who do not choose to sleep rough are being fined for their misfortune,’ he said.

‘People that are sleeping on our streets need to be supported, not banned or fined.
‘Instead of these draconian measures we need a strategic, cross government approach to dealing with homelessness.
‘We urge government to work closely with the sector to find a solution to end rough sleeping once and for all.’

What are PSPOs?

PSPOs, or Public Space Protection Orders, came into existence in 2014 as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The give council broad powers to criminalise behaviour that is not normally criminal.

They are generally applied to public spaces and their use is diverse.

Many councils use them to ensure dogs are kept on leads, for instance, or to stop cars from being driven too loudly, such as in Kensington and Chelsea.

People who are in breach of PSPOs can be fined potentially up to £1,000, but generally penalties sit nearer the £100 mark for an on the spot fine.

PSPOs were first brought into the spotlight in 2015 when Hackney council attempted to make rough sleeping a criminal offence in a designated PSPO.

However, after local groups gathered more than 80,000 signatures on a petition opposing it, the council withdrew its proposal.

Often such ideas are floated at consultation, before the PSPO is introduced, and then withdrawn based on feedback.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council considered fining people for sleeping rough but later withdrew the proposal after consultation.

Tony Kearon, who is the cabinet member for communities and social cohesion, said it has never taken action against the homeless

He said: ‘By contrast, the PSPO…is designed specifically to tackle issues caused by the antisocial behaviour of a small number of individuals, which can cause alarm and distress to people who are enjoying a visit to the town centre.’

But other councils have included fines for sleeping rough in their PSPOs.

hepway District Council, Cherwell District Council and Teignbridge District Council all threaten people with fines for sleeping on the street.

Jenny Hollingsbee, Shepway’s cabinet member for communities, said sleeping on the streets was both extremely harmful and very unsafe.

She said PSPOs mean the council can challenge persistent offenders and she said the threat of a penalty notice has reduced rough sleeping although no one has been fined to date.

A spokesperson for Teignbridge said the PSPO was not introduced to target people sleeping on the street but instead designed to tackle people congregating in an area of Dawlish.

Other councils, like Gravesham Borough, have attempted to bypass the problem by specifying that the homeless or vulnerable would not be fined.

‘There are a very small number of people that are not homeless but choose to sleep on the street, the PSPO is put in place to discourage this,’ a spokesperson told us.

However, Lara ten Caten, a legal officer for Liberty, said many councils tried to duck controversy by avoiding mentioning homelessness or begging.

‘These figures expose the rotten reality of the Government’s failed PSPO experiment – they are all too easily and too often abused. But disturbingly these numbers are likely the tip of the iceberg,’ she said.

‘Many councils are trying to duck potential controversy by avoiding mentioning homelessness or begging – instead banning lying down, or carrying sleeping materials in public.

‘PSPOs are incapable of alleviating hardship and addressing complex social problems. As homelessness rises, councils should be offering help and support – not hitting the most vulnerable in society with fines they can’t possibly afford and criminal prosecutions.

‘Until the Government wakes up and abandons PSPOs altogether, this injustice will continue.’


Cherwell District Council: Fines for begging, drinking and rough sleeping

Gravesham Borough Council: £75 for lying down, sleeping or putting down bedding but excludes the homeless and vulnerable

Teignbridge District Council: £100 fines for sleeping rough

Shepway District Council: £100 fines for begging and sleeping rough

At least 12 other councils issue fines for begging or so-called aggressive begging.

They include South Tyneside Council which told us previously that the order intended to target ‘professional beggers’.

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