'A leading homelessness charity, police and politicians are calling on the government to scrap a 195-year-old law that criminalises homeless people for rough sleeping and begging in England and Wales.
A report by Crisis, backed by MPs and police representatives, outlines the case for repealing the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which critics warn makes poverty a crime and pushes rough sleepers away from help.
The act hit the headlines when the head of Windsor council suggested police use the law to clear “an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy in Windsor” ahead of last year’s royal wedding.
Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis, said the law, originally introduced to make it easier for police to clear the streets of destitute soldiers returning from the Napoleonic wars, was a disgrace and that while “there are real solutions to resolving people’s homelessness – arrest and prosecution are not among them”.
He added: “The government has pledged to review the Vagrancy Act as part of its rough sleeping strategy, but it must go further. The act may have been fit for purpose 200 years ago, but it now represents everything that’s wrong with how homeless and vulnerable people are treated. It must be scrapped.”
The report comes after the Guardian revealed councils are using a range of legal powers to clear hundreds of homeless encampments, a figure that has trebled in the last five years.'
Read more: Calls for 195-year-old Vagrancy Act to be scrapped
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