Pressure is mounting on the government to scrap a Georgian-era law used to criminalise homeless people for sleeping and begging on the street.
Charities and politicians across all parties have laid out their opposition to the Vagrancy Act, which was controversial even when rolled out in 1824. In Parliament earlier this month, the Act was described as “a cruel and outdated piece of legislation”.
A freedom of information request to the Crown Prosecution Service in 2016 revealed that more than 2,000 people had been prosecuted under the Act every year for at least 10 years.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have abolished the law, which has been extended over the years to prosecute offences deemed to cause “moral outrage”, including homosexuality, prostitution and “living in sin”.
Thirty-four per cent of local authorities in England and Wales still use it to punish rough sleeping and begging, although the majority choose not to enforce it.
A recent survey of outreach workers by London based St Mungo’s showed 71 per cent were in favour of scrapping the law.