Homelessness and public spaces

Liberty demands westminster council end harassment of rough sleepers

Posted on 02 Mar 2021

Liberty’s lawyers have written to Westminster Council demanding they stop security guards harassing people sleeping rough.

  • Letter warns treatment may breach human rights laws
  • Liberty calls for end to laws criminalising poverty

Liberty has told Westminster Council it must end the harassment of people sleeping rough by security guards in the borough, and called for authorities to stop treating homelessness and poverty as a crime.

In a letter sent today, 2 March, the human rights and equalities organisation warned the council that harassment of people sleeping rough, including filming them while sleeping and without their consent, is likely to breach human rights laws.

Liberty was contacted by the Museum of Homelessness, a charity that supports the homeless community, who reported that the filming has occurred regularly for the past 16 months.

Westminster Council has previously harassed people living in the streetsin the area, including hosing down their belongings in the middle of winter.

Liberty lawyer Lara ten Caten said: “If you’re homeless or sleeping rough, your council should be there to provide help and support, not punishment. Filming homeless people without their consent is part of an attitude to homelessness that treats people as requiring policing and punishment, rather than compassion and support.

“The pandemic has put many more people at risk of homelessness, and heightened the risks faced by people already sleeping rough. It’s time the Government stopped treating homelessness as a crime, and ensured people get the support they need.”

Liberty has campaigned for an end to laws and regulations that criminalise homelessness and rough sleeping. In 2020 Liberty successfully ended a case against Bournemouth Poole and Christchurch Council after the council agreed to scrap parts of a Public Spaces protection Order that targeted people who were rough sleeping and begging.

The human rights group has also campaigned for the 200-year-old Vagrancy Act, to be scrapped, and welcomed a statement from the Housing Minister last week in which he said he supported that call.

Contact the Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656 / 07973 831 128 or pressoffice@libertyhumanrights.org.uk 

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