'“Dickensian” laws allowing for thousands of homeless and “peaceful” beggars to be removed from the streets and prosecuted should be repealed, an Oxford University campaign group told RT.
On Your Doorstep, a homelessness campaign group part of the university’s student union, launched a petition calling for the pre-Victorian Vagrancy Act 1824 to be repealed, as it criminalizes some of the most vulnerable in society.
The Act was scrapped in Scotland and Ireland, though it remains in Britain’s statutes and is to this day still enforced.
“It’s hard enough being in one of the most vulnerable situations imaginable in this country without them [rough sleepers] feeling like they are being hunted, pushed around and harassed by authorities,” Alex Kumar, who launched the petition, told RT.
According to the Act, police are given powers to arrest and detain for up to three months anyone found “lodging in any barn or outhouse, or in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart or waggon, not having any visible means of subsistence.”
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that in England and Wales, between 2016 and ‘17, there were 1,810 prosecutions under the Act, and as recently as 2015, the number was more than 3,000, the New Statesman reports.
Kumar – whose petition has garnered 14,000 signatures – said the anachronistic law, which faced criticism when it was passed in the 19th century, is just “ridiculous” in modern times. The campaigner added that authorities should acknowledge that homelessness is not a “criminal issue,” but a “humanitarian crisis.”'
Read more: Scrap ‘barbaric’ pre-Victorian powers to detain rough sleepers, homeless campaign group tells RT
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