Bristol Liberal Democrats have put their support behind a bill that will see the end of the Vagrancy Act – ending councils like Bristol from putting homeless people behind bars for begging.
Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, has introduced the bill that will end the criminalisation of rough sleeping. The Dickensian Vagrancy Act of 1824 has been used by multiple councils across the country as they seek to hide the homelessness issue, rather than finding more practical and humane solutions.
The Act has caught local attention after a homeless man was sent to prison for begging in Clifton Village. Adrian Hill was sentenced to six months for breaching an injunction banning him from merely entering Clifton Village and from begging elsewhere across the city.
Experts from the University of Bristol criticised the Labour-run City Council for their use of the Vagrancy Act and for, essentially, “criminalising begging” in Bristol.
Anthony Negus, Liberal Democrat councillor for Cotham, said:
“Destitution is not a crime and prison will not solve it. We believe that a caring society should address its issues rather than locking them out of sight. We should be helping people to find their way again while tackling the causes of their situation.”
Merche Clark, a local Clifton campaigner, added:
“How to deal with long-term rough sleepers and beggars is not a simple one. Resources need to be allocated to help the many groups trying to tackle the issue. Clearly throwing people in prison is not the solution.
“Perhaps the money spent on court cases and prison sentences could be redirected to providing alternative ways to helping these people to develop a lifestyle off the streets - which is also not cheap, but may, in the end, be better for everyone.”
The Vagrancy Repeal Bill will have its second reading on Friday, March 16th. Watch Layla question the Prime Minister.