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Should begging be criminalised and people fined?

Beggars in the Dorset town of Poole will be now issued with fines of £100 from their local council. Despite heavy criticism ‘Public Space Protection Orders’ – as they’re known – will be introduced from mid-April in a bid to “tackle anti-social and nuisance behaviours” according to officials. Fines could also be issued to those found sleeping rough in car parks and doorways.

The policy, also covers drinking alcohol and leaving unattended possessions in the street by homeless people. The policy is aimed at preventing and tackling anti-social behaviour, crime and disorder and protecting individuals and various communities from harm, the council said in a statement.

The initiative will be rolled out in the town centre, Holes Bay, Alexandra Park and the Ashley Road areas. Nearly 4,000 people in Dorset have signed a petition protesting the implementation of the policy. The action by the council has been heavily criticised by local residents including the Bishop of Sherborne.

Labour MP David Lammy called the policy “cruel and pointless.” “Fining people who are homeless and sleeping on the street is one of the most cruel and pointless policies I have ever seen,” he wrote on Twitter. “Why criminalise people for being poor and vulnerable? We need to focus on the support and housing services that homeless people need.”

However Poole councillor Karen Rampton said they wanted the town “to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone who lives, works or visits” adding “We are aware of the increase in anti-social behaviour in the Town Centre and Holes Bay areas and the new measure is a tool we can use, amongst others, to tackle this behaviour. The PSPO will not be used to target any specific group such as those people sleeping rough.

Councillor Rampton says “The council proactively works with individuals to encourage them to use the full range of support available from the council and local charities. Whether this is working with individuals who have a problem with drugs or alcohol, supporting individuals into housing, offering a hot meal and healthcare or providing intensive daily support to enable an individual to sustain a tenancy, we will continue to engage and support wherever possible our most vulnerable members of our community.”

So there you have it. Two very different approaches to dealing with homeless people being in sight and in city centre areas. This is something that we get contacted about at the show on a regular basis. Many people have said that they are sick and tired of being harassed at the ATM, on the bus and even at church and would like to see tough measures implemented to stop this behaviour.

On the other had there are people who say that kicking someone when they are down on their luck is something that should not be encouraged by councils and the government. There are genuinely people who are down on their luck and may find themselves homeless and begging just to survive. So tonight I want to ask you the question – Should begging be criminalised and homeless people fined like that in the UK?

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