by willforster on 6 April, 2018
The local Lib Dems and I have come out in support of a petition to end the Vagrancy Act 1824 after it was revealed that Surrey Police have arrested 29 people over the last three years for begging and sleeping rough.
This 19th Century law gives Police the power to arrest any people found begging or sleeping rough in public, and has already been repealed in Scotland and in Ireland.
In 2014 and 2015, 3,071 homeless people were brought before Courts in violation of the Act across the country, though this statistic does not include the law’s most common use – the Police asking homeless people to move along. In Surrey, 29 arrests were made between 2015 and 2017.
At our Autumn 2016 Conference, the Lib Dems made it party policy to repeal the Vagrancy Act, as well as provide better mental health service for homeless people. The motion, ‘An End to Homelessness’, noted the severe lack of housing in the UK, and the requirement for more social and affordable housing.
The national petition – available to sign here – against the Vagrancy Act has already gained almost 20,000 signatures, surpassing the 10,000 needed for a response from the Government.
The treatment of homeless people and those sleeping rough across the UK and locally in Surrey is unacceptable. People should not be arrested for simply begging or sleeping rough. The heavy-handed way that homeless people are treated is being raised with me time and time again by residents across Woking.
I hope the Government and Parliament sees sense and decides to scrap this law from the time of King George IV. We as a country must end the situation where homeless people can still be arrested and dragged before the courts for sleeping rough using a heartless, Dickensian law dating back to 1824.
We need more money for homeless support services, but more than that, money needs to be spent fixing the core root of the problem and looks at why people are homeless in the first place. This also needs to be backed up with the building of vastly more affordable homes.Leave a comment