Commissioner welcomes plans to scrap the Vagrancy Act

Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey Lisa Townsend has welcomed the Government’s plans to repeal the Vagrancy Act as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan announced yesterday.

Read Lisa’s statement below:

In my view, one of the important parts of yesterday’s ASB Action Plan was the Government’s commitment to repeal the Vagrancy Act which I have always believed criminalises some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

No one should be made to feel they are breaking the law simply by having nowhere to live. The Act is clearly outdated and replacing it with an alternative that is based on positive support to tackle the root causes of homelessness and begging is something that I have personally called on the government for during my time as Commissioner.

We know that those who find themselves on the street can come from varied backgrounds including those in mental health crisis, our armed forces veterans and those recently released from prison. Often their needs are complex and we need all agencies and services working together to provide the right support for them.

Homelessness and begging extends far beyond anti-social behaviour. Whilst I don’t want to see further criminalisation of those on the streets, where we must focus our attention is on those criminal gangs who are responsible for organised begging networks that are exploiting the vulnerable.  These gangs are transporting people into our towns and cities, including here in Surrey, to beg for money then taking that cash for their own purposes.  

This is organised criminality which must be tackled so I am pleased to see an emphasis placed on targeting those responsible in the government’s plan.