UK government refuses to accept Lords’ attempts to repeal vagrancy law

UK government refuses to accept Lords’ attempts to repeal vagrancy law

The UK government refused to support a multi-party effort in the House of Lords to decriminalize homelessness, refusing to accept amendments that would repeal the Vagrancy law.

The law, which came into force in 1824, criminalizes sleeping in the street and begging. Already repealed in Scotland, the legislation is still used in England and Wales to criminalize people sleeping rough or begging. Anyone prosecuted under the law faces a fine of up to £ 1,000 and a criminal record.

Repeal of the law was not included in the Queen’s Speech in May, despite all-party support and the then housing secretary Robert jenrick, who told the House of Commons in February that the law was “archaic legislation, the time of which is past.”

Thanks to its “Scrap the Act” campaign, the charitable association for the homeless Crisis called for the law to be repealed so that homeless people are supported rather than criminalized because they have nowhere to go except the streets.

But although the Prime Minister recently recognized the need to “reconsider” the archaic Vagrancy Act in Prime Minister’s Questions, the government has not agreed to amendments to the Vagrancy Act. Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill this would have ensured that the almost 200-year-old legislation would be recorded in the history books.

Matt Downie, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis, said: “It is very disappointing that the UK government has missed this perfect opportunity to decriminalize homelessness and deprivation.

“As the Prime Minister himself said, no one should be criminalized for being homeless. The police bill represents the best possible chance to make this appalling law a thing of the past. Obsolete and counterproductive, the vagrancy law only drives people away from support.

“The government still has the option of doing the right thing and supporting Lord Best’s amendments at report stage. We urge ministers and peers in the House of Lords to seize this precious opportunity to right a 200 year old wrong. ”

Lord Best, who tabled the amendments, said: “My amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill have received warm support from all parties, so it is disappointing that the government does not felt unable to support them at the committee stage. All the evidence suggests that helping people get out of homelessness is much more effective than criminalizing them, and I think it is generally recognized that the vagrancy law is not an effective or necessary law. It would seem fair to ask the House of Lords to adopt this amendment at the report stage of the bill and send the matter back to the House of Commons.

Bob Blackman, MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Homelessness, said: “By enacting this long overdue repeal through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the government will cost no time or public money.” There has never been a better opportunity in the Assembly to put an end once and for all to this conflicting and outdated piece of legislation, while ensuring that the police have the tools they need to tackle anti-social behavior. and aggressive begging. I urge peers to support these important amendments at report stage of the bill.

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