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Rough sleepers should receive support – not be made criminals

The Liberal Democrats have today called for a change in the law having revealed 646 people were found guilty of rough sleeping under the Vagrancy Act (1824) across the West Midlands, between 2014 and 2017. 

Lee Dargue, Birmingham Ladywood spokesperson for the Lib Dems, supports Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Layla Moran’s campaign. Layla is working to end the criminalisation of rough sleepers and said the Conservative Government should be “ashamed”. Layla has called for MPs to support her Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill 2017-19.

The figures from the Ministry of Justice, uncovered by a Liberal Democrat Freedom of Information request, show a total of 6,518 ‘offenders’ were found guilty under the Vagrancy Act (1824) across England and Wales between 2014 and 2017.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

“This Conservative Government should be ashamed that they have continued to allow the use of a law that makes rough sleeping a criminal offence, and for it to be used with such little regard for the people afflicted.

“This law was controversial 200 years ago, and it has no place in a modern, compassionate society. I urge all MPs to back my cross-party campaign to scrap the Vagrancy Act and bring an end to the law criminalising and degrading our most vulnerable.”

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Birmingham Ladywood, and Health spokesperson, Lee Dargue added:

“Moving people on, issuing fines and putting vulnerable people in prison cells should be a source of shame. People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.

“I want to see a society that cares for those that have fallen on hard times and treats them with compassion, not cruelty and condemnation.

“It is time that this archaic act from the Nineteenth Century was repealed, and replaced with care and real support for vulnerable people.”

ENDS.


Notes to editors:

More on Layla Moran’s Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill 2017-19 can be found here

Offenders found guilty at all courts of offences under the Vagrancy Act 1824 (1) by police force area, England and Wales, 2014-2017 (2)(3)    
             
Police force area 2014 2015 2016 2017    
Gloucestershire 3 2 3 .    
Surrey 12 3 1    
City of London    
Metropolitan Police (4) 671 466 481 218    
West Midlands 272 158 133 83    
Merseyside 162 183 165 82    
Greater Manchester 182 128 56 75    
Nottinghamshire 20 66 69 53    
Northumbria 100 126 34 49    
Derbyshire 52 31 21 43    
Cheshire 63 45 34 40    
Lancashire 51 38 41 35    
Cleveland 37 10 29 33    
Norfolk 20 12 13 28    
West Yorkshire 47 31 31 26    
Thames Valley 49 39 28 24    
Lincolnshire 16 21 19 23    
South Wales 43 47 24 23    
West Mercia 21 20 10 21    
Avon and Somerset 46 20 11 19    
Cambridgeshire 55 30 24 18    
South Yorkshire 30 46 46 17    
Warwickshire 4 6 8 14    
Humberside 35 18 24 11    
Devon and Cornwall 7 14 13 9    
Gwent 15 14 11 9    
North Wales 10 13 17 8    
Hertfordshire 14 12 15 7    
Kent 8 12 7 7    
Hampshire 52 27 12 6    
Sussex 28 40 7 6    
Durham 8 9 7 5    
Staffordshire 7 5 4 5    
Cumbria 5 2 2 4    
Leicestershire 8 11 10 4    
Essex 12 6 6 4    
North Yorkshire 17 12 5 3    
Northamptonshire 4 7 1 3    
Dorset 40 8 18 3    
Bedfordshire 7 4 4 2    
Wiltshire 13 5 9 2    
Suffolk 34 11 2 1    
Dyfed Powys . . . 2    
Total (ALL) 2,280 1,758 1,455 1,025    
             
 ‘ – ‘  = Nil            
             
(1) Includes Sections 3 and 4 of Vagrancy Act 1824   
             
(2) The figures given in the table relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.  
             
(3) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.  
             
(4) Metropolitan Police includes City of London          
             
Source: Justice Statistics Analytical Services – Ministry of Justice.