Oxford

Homeless £2.5k fine threat within Oxford council's rules

Sleeping bag
Image caption Oxford City Council said the abandoned bags were blocking fire exits and posed a hazard to pedestrians

Council staff acted "appropriately" when notices threatening homeless people with fines of up to £2,500 were issued in Oxford, a review has found.

The city's council ordered the report after it was criticised for attaching them to bags belonging to rough sleepers in central Oxford.

It found they were used correctly against rough sleepers on five occasions last year.

But the Green Party said independent legal advice contradicted the finding.

Oxford City Council was accused of trying to "intimidate" homeless people when community protection notices (CPNs) were issued on belongings in July.

At the time, the authority said they were blocking fire exits and lockers were available people who sought help.

Nonetheless, a review by a senior council officer was subsequently ordered in October.

Image caption Notices issued by the council in July warned fines or prosecution could follow

It found "informal approaches" were made before action was taken, council policy was followed, and their use was appropriate.

It added, in each instance they were tackling an "element of risk", which included blocking pavements, fire escapes, or public services like bus shelters.

But Oxford's Green Party said George Molyneaux of Blackstone Chambers had examined a CPN from 19 July 2017 and believed an appeal would have succeeded.

His advice said it instructed the person not to leave belongings unattended on any land which was not theirs without written permission.

In his view, this was a requirement of "extraordinary breadth" and it was "very likely" a court would have found it "unreasonable".

Responding, Oxford City Council said Mr Molyneaux had not seen all the case papers and it believed its actions were "reasonable" and "lawful".

No appeal was made and the CPN was complied with, it added.

Separately, board member for community safety, councillor Tom Hayes, said the council "has not, will not, and never will" issue CPNs to somebody because they are homeless or sleeping rough.

Image caption The notices said the individual could face a maximum fine of £2,500, if prosecuted

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