Homeless woman jailed for begging ‘despite no one having complained’

‘They say they’re trying to rid the town centre of the blight of beggars and what not, but it’s mainly an attack on homeless people – it’s just to remove poverty from the streets’

From The Independent-


Llandudno Magistrates Court heard that the woman asked for money and received it from five passers-by, despite being prohibited from sitting on the ground for more than ten minutes in town centres in Conwy County during shop opening hours.

‘A homeless woman has been jailed for begging in North Wales despite no one having complained, in what campaigners have suggested is part of a wider effort to “remove poverty from the streets”.

Susan Piggott was sentenced to six weeks in prison after she admitted begging outside a shop while she was banned by a criminal behaviour order, according to North Wales Pioneer.

Llandudno Magistrates Court heard that she asked for money and received it from five passers-by, despite being prohibited from sitting on the ground for more than ten minutes in town centres in Conwy County during shop opening hours.

Ms Piggott’s solicitor, Nia Dawson, said the 55-year-old woman was in poor health, that there was no allegation of aggressive begging, and that no one had complained about her behaviour.

Jon Glackin, a former rough sleeper who is the founder of Street Kitchen, a grassroots homeless support group in London, said it was “ridiculous” to criminalise homeless people rather than addressing why they were on the streets.

“There were no complaints of anti-social behaviour about this woman. She was banned from sitting down for 10 minutes. That’s probably where her social life is,” he said.

“This is happening more and more across the UK. They say they’re trying to rid the town centre of the blight of beggars and what not, but it’s mainly an attack on homeless people – it’s just to remove poverty from the streets.

“We should be addressing the issues of why people are there on the streets, not to move them with the punishment of criminalisation, which is ridiculous. 

“Six weeks in jail – that’s a lot of money; that’s a waste of money. That could’ve set up that woman in a flat, that’s a deposit. Jail is not the right place to put vulnerable people.”

Mr Glackin said Streets Kitchen was seeing a growing number of people needing their services after being impacted by benefit cuts and that – along with support services being “cut to the bone” – this was leaving some people with no option but to beg.

If somebody is desperate enough to ask for money, generally they need it. It’s up to the public as to whether they can afford it. If a person is not in a good state, maybe better to give them something to eat. Just sending some time with them is the most important thing – acknowledging them as a person,” he said.

“Without begging, how are people going to get money? Criminal activities? We’re seeing more and more coming to Streets Kitchen coming because of benefit cuts, because of universal credit messing around, not getting paid for months on end. We’re seeing quite a few people like that now.

There are so many cuts. Drug and alcohol services have been cut to the bone. The support services aren’t there anymore. The government needs to urgently address that, rather than criminalising people, which is not cost-effective.”

It comes after it emerged local councils had been misusing powers to hand out fines for rough sleeping and begging, in what campaigners branded a “form of social cleansing”.

Data obtained through freedom of information laws showed there had been an 89 per cent rise in local authorities issuing Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), which criminalise acts such as rough sleeping and begging, in the last three years.

This is despite guidance from the Home Office in 2017 said PSPOs should not target rough sleeping or restrict the everyday use of public places.’

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