15 March 2016
The Green Party is concerned that statutes now exist which allow councils and police to use criminal law against those who find themselves sleeping rough in our cities. This only makes things worse for that highly vulnerable part of our society, compounding their exclusion and putting the extra burden of a criminal record in the way of their efforts to rebuild their lives. Caroline Lucas MP has taken a firm stand against this, and our member Sean Adam spent the night sleeping rough in Stoke just before Christmas to draw attention to the practice, receiving a sympathetic response from councillors and police.
We asked a question on the subject to the last meeting of Stoke City Council and had a positive reply from Councillor Conway. With more of this type of pressure there is every chance that the practice can be discredited before it becomes the norm.
Question:The Use of Public Spaces Protection orders by Stoke-on-Trent City Council from Adam Colclough, Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent addressed to the Leader of the Council (Councillor Conway):-
Councils around the country have used Public Spaces Protection Orders, a provision contained in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act (2014) to move on rough sleepers, in the process levying against them fines of up to £1000 they cannot hope to pay.
This, as several leading homelessness charities have pointed out constitutes the active criminalisation of homeless people.
Will Stoke-on-Trent City Council give an undertaking that it will not impose such measures and will instead focus its efforts on helping rough sleepers find suitable accommodation and appropriate support in order to deal with the issues that have led to their becoming homeless.
RESPONSE: Provided by the Leader of the Council (Councillor Conway):-
The Council is fully committed to using its role in relation to the new Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) tools and powers in a sensitive manner and recognises that a Public Space Protection Order is designed to resolve antisocial behaviour problems, not to unnecessarily criminalise individuals. The Council has robust safeguards and processes in place to ensure that all ASB tools and powers are used proportionately, and in the instance described we would seek an alternative and better course of action, such as offering access to support. The Council has for many years been committed to providing a range of supported housing for people that experience homelessness and this commitment is further demonstrated by the opening of the Macari Centre.
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