Dorset homeless people face fines for sleeping in doorways

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People sitting in a public place with a receptacle to collect money face being fined under the plans

Homeless people in three coastal towns could be fined for sleeping in doorways under plans drawn up by councillors.

Conservative politicians want to adopt the measure in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) under a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).

They say it is needed after complaints from residents and businesses. But opponents call the idea "cruel" and say the local authority could be sued.

The council cabinet will decide if the plan should go to public consultation.

Initially, council officers recommended the PSPO should only restrict drinking alcohol in public in an anti-social manner, possession, supply or use of drugs and behaviour causing harassment, alarm or distress.

Image source, BBC Sport
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Those who violate the terms of a PSPO can be fined £100

But during an Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting this week, Tory councillors said it should go further and fines should also be issued for begging, sitting a public place with a receptacle to collect money from the public and leaving unattended bedding and bags.

Speaking during the meeting, councillor Karen Rampton said: "Now the shops are all opening again shopkeepers do not want people obstructing their doorways, especially in these times of Covid."

However, Liberal Democrat councillor Millie Earl called the proposal "very cruel".

"[The amendment] does impact those that are rough sleeping and those who are in need, and it's counterproductive to hand out a fine to someone who is already in poverty."

Six Tory councillors and one independent voted for the stricter PSPO, which will be considered by the council's cabinet next month. The council is run by an alliance of other parties, despite the Conservatives having the most councillors.

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Human rights group Liberty launched a High Court challenge to a begging ban brought in two years ago

In 2018, Poole Borough Council introduced a PSPO which led to beggars being fined, sparking a Liberty-backed High Court challenge.

Lara ten Caten, a lawyer for the human rights organisation, said: "The clauses targeting rough sleeping and begging are cruel and discriminatory and are being challenged in the High Court. "

The council has since backed down over the issue, according to the Daily Echo.

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