Homeless people could be “criminalised” and “penalised” as UK councils attempt to crack down on begging, it has been claimed.
Introduced in 2014, Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) let local authorities tackle anti-social behaviour they deem to be “detrimental to the local community’s quality of life”.
Under a PSPO introduced by South Tyneside Council, a £100 fine can be handed to those deemed to be begging – prompting fears the homeless could be “penalised” for accepting a donation.
Fr Christopher Fuller of St Hilda’s Church in South Shields said he understood the orders were being “introduced by lots of local authorities across the country”.
“My concern is that people who are vulnerable, but also people who are good-willed…they see someone sitting on the street and have a pang of conscience and want to get them a tea, coffee or sandwich,” he said.
“They buy them something and innocently give it to them, without the vulnerable person necessarily saying anything – they could potentially get fined £100.”
There are a number of PSPOs in place across the borough of South Tyneside that it is claimed target both alcohol consumption and begging.
Notices of their imposition were put up in the areas where the orders applied, but South Tyneside Council said these have since been removed.
The orders forbid ‘verbal, non-verbal or written requests, including the placing of hats or containers for money, donations or goods’.
“The problem is if these individuals begging on the streets get fined £100, where is this money going to come from? They certainly won’t have it themselves,” said Fr Fuller.
He agreed there was a need to stop people drinking on the streets and causing anti-social behaviour, but said: “Someone just sitting quietly wanting money isn’t that big an issue.”
Picture: File photo of a homeless person, as they could be “criminalised” and “penalized” as UK councils attempt to crack down on begging, it has been claimed. (Jonathan Brady/PA).