Eight people fined for begging by Barking and Dagenham Council

A homeless man, begging for money in Victoria, London

A homeless man, begging for money in Victoria, London - Credit: PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

Last year eight people were fined for begging by Barking and Dagenham Council, according to a new report.

The figures come from freedom of information requests by the Manifesto Club, a group that campaigns against regulation of public space.

Beggars in the borough can be given a £100 on-the-spot fine, but can face paying up to £1,000. If they can’t pay, they could end up in court.

The fines are made because of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). The Manifesto Club has dubbed the law enacting PSPOs the ‘Busybodies’ Charter’.

Councils have used them to restrict behaviour like dog walking, collecting for charity and feeding pigeons.

Barking and Dagenham isn’t the only authority to hit beggars with fines, Derby and Poole have also issued them. Newcastle gave the most, with nine in 2018.

In all, 22 councils have banned begging, including West Suffolk, which banned ‘sitting with receptacle to beg’ and Welwyn Hatfield council banned ‘sitting on ground to invite donations’.

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The Barking and Dagenham council has also pursued people for less controversial reasons.

The data showed it gave 75 fines for alcohol-related offenses in 2018, 29 for spitting and 48 for street racing.

A spokesman for Barking and Dagenham Council said PSPOs are a response to what residents want and that they got overwhelming support for them from the public when the consultation was put out.

“Since they have been in place, there has been a decrease in certain types of anti-social behaviour which has seen our residents being able to go about their business in peace without being harassed or inconvenienced,” he said.

He claimed that the eight people fined were ‘professional’ beggars, not rough sleepers and that the council was working with partners to find them ‘longer term solutions.

Josie Appleton from the Manifesto Club said: “PSPOs create loads of crimes and criminalise people for activities that are not harmful – that’s why they’re not on the statute books.

“The main problem with criminalising begging is obvious. It is completely count-productive and heartless to penalise someone who doesn’t have any money and doesn’t have a home.

“The idea that fining them or giving them criminal records is in any way a sensible or humane policy is just crazy.”

PSPOs have become an easy way for authorities to do something to respond to complaints while suffering public service cut-backs, said Ms Appleton.