Criminal Justice Bill and Homelessness | Providence Row

Providence Row, and other organisations that support people experiencing homelessness, are voicing urgent concerns about the content of the Government's proposed Criminal Justice Bill.

The Bill is a new piece of legislation containing new powers for police and local authorities to enforce against what the Government calls ‘nuisance rough sleeping’ in England and Wales. People experiencing homelessness would face being moved on, a fine up to £2,500 and even a prison sentence. 

Sleeping rough has been a criminal offence since 1824. Under the Vagrancy Act, people sleeping rough in England and Wales could be moved on or fined up to £1,000. In February 2022 the Act was repealed after campaigners showed that it was unacceptable to treat people this way. The repeal has not yet been ‘enacted’ though which means that technically the Vagrancy Act still applies. 

After Parliament voted to repeal the Vagrancy Act, the UK Government launched a consultation on what should replace the legislation. They decided to introduce new homelessness laws through the Criminal Justice Bill.

The Criminal Justice Bill, if passed, would make so-called ‘nuisance’ rough sleeping a criminal offence. Someone could be considered a ‘nuisance’ if they are sleeping in a doorway, if they have ‘excessive smell’ or if they look like they are intending to sleep on the streets. 

The Bill is currently at Report stage in the House of Commons.

Commenting on the Bill, Tom O'Connor, Providence Row CEO, said: ‘Providence Row is extremely concerned by the fact that the Government is trying to criminalise homelessness through the Criminal Justice Bill. People who experience homelessness are vulnerable people with complex needs who need support and advice and they should not to be singled out in this way. Instead we need to address the root causes of homelessness and Government should focus on providing better funding for support services and more affordable housing rather than punitive action’.  

The Providence Row team will also be contacting our local MP, Rushanara Ali, 
to ask her to oppose the Government's proposals. 

Providence Row is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales with company number 07452798 and registered charity number 1140192. Its registered office is at The Dellow Centre, 82 Wentworth Street, London, E1 7SA.
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