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Priest's concerns as councils continue begging crackdown

Fri 09 Dec 2016
By Aaron James

A priest's expressed concerns over plans by councils nationwide to crackdown on begging, including fining homeless people.

Introduced in 2014, Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) let local authorities tackle anti-social behaviour they deem to be "detrimental to the local community's quality of life".

Under a PSPO introduced by South Tyneside Council, a £100 fine can be handed to those deemed to be begging - prompting fears the homeless could be "penalised" for accepting a donation.

Southampton, Newcastle, Sunderland and Rushcliffe councils also have PSPOs in place.

Father Christopher Fuller of St Hilda's Church in South Shields said he understood the orders were being "introduced by lots of local authorities across the country".

He said: "My concern is that people who are vulnerable, but also people who are good-willed... they see someone sitting on the street and have a pang of conscience and want to get them a tea, coffee or sandwich.

"They buy them something and innocently give it to them, without the vulnerable person necessarily saying anything - they could potentially get fined £100.

"Someone just sitting quietly wanting money isn't that big an issue."

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

 

There are a number of PSPOs in place across the borough of South Tyneside that it is claimed target both alcohol consumption and begging.

Notices of their imposition were put up in the areas where the orders applied, but South Tyneside Council said these have since been removed.

The orders forbid "verbal, non-verbal or written requests, including the placing of hats or containers for money, donations or goods".

Councillor Allan West, lead member for housing at South Tyneside Council, said no fines had been issued for begging and that tackling homelessness was a "core priority".

He added: "These orders are in no way aimed at people in genuine hardship.

"However, we understand that the posters may have been open to misinterpretation. We have taken on-board people's concerns and these posters are no longer in circulation."


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