More than 6,000 rough sleepers criminalised over four years by 'indefensible' law


More than 6,000 rough sleepers have been criminalised over four years by a Victorian law described as ‘indefensible’.

The Government has been slammed for using a Victorian law to criminalise rough sleepers after it emerged more than 1,000 people were found guilty in 2017.

It comes as figures reveal nearly 600 people died while homeless across the UK.

A Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats has revealed that 6,518 ‘offenders’ were found guilty under the Victorian law between 2014 to 2017 in England and Wales.

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions, says the law is “indefensible and outdated”.

The Metropolitan Police were the most likely force to use the Act averaging 459 convictions a year.

Layla Moran is campaigning to get the law scrapped

West Midlands police force area averaged 161, and Merseyside averaged 148 per year.

It comes as figures revealed nearly 600 people died while sleeping rough in the UK 

Ms Moran told the Commons today: “One homeless person dying on our is enough to enough for national shame but the latest figures show that in 2017 there were nearly 600 and in that same year the Vagrancy Act was used more than a thousand times to drag homeless people before our courts.

“Crisis, Centrepoint, St Mungo’s and MPs on both sides of this House are agreed its time to scrap this law.

“Would the Prime Minister consider meeting with us and the charities so we can make the case for why we shouldn’t wait one more day.”

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Theresa May insisted that the number of people sleeping rough has fallen for the first time in eight years.

Rough sleeping has fallen for the first time in eight years

 

But she accepted that more needs to be done agreeing to arrange a meeting with the relevant minister.

Responding to the commitment from the Prime Minister, Layla Moran said: “I’m glad that the Prime Minister has recognised the seriousness of the plight of those living on our streets.

“When I meet with the Minister, I will be asking for the Government to support my campaign to scrap the Vagrancy Act, an indefensible and outdated law.

“Criminalising homeless people is a national disgrace and shames our society, which should aspire to have more compassion for its most vulnerable.”   

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