Homelessness and public spaces


Posted on 09 Mar 2022

Liberty has written and printed thousands of legal advice cards in a new initiative aimed at supporting people who face criminalisation for rough sleeping and begging.

The two-sided cards advise people of the laws around Community Protection Notices (CPNs); powers which are often used by the police and council officers to criminalise behaviour associated with homelessness.

Working with partner organisations that support homeless people, Liberty began distributing the 4000 cards at hubs across England last week.

The advice includes setting out what the police or council officers must do to issue a valid CPN, such as provide a written warning, and how to contact Liberty if you think you have been issued a CPN wrongly.

Liberty has previously warned that CPNs are often used to criminalise poverty and is representing a woman in North London who is challenging the CPN imposed on her, which restricts her activity. In her case, entering a shop or having a sign asking for money would breach her CPN and constitute a criminal offence.

These are the first cards designed to help homeless people protect themselves against police misuse of power, after Liberty previously distributed protest bust cards, and worked alongside other organisations on stop and search bust cards.

Liberty lawyer Lara ten Caten said: “If any of us becomes homeless or finds ourselves out on the streets, we should be able to find support and safety. But rather than try to engage with the root causes of this issue, CPNs are designed to criminalise people who need help.

“Like the Vagrancy Act and PSPOs, CPNs are part of a senseless web of laws that trap people in poverty and criminalisation. They are frequently misused and we hope these cards will help people to know their rights when facing legal threats or nothing but the situation they find themselves in.”

A spokesperson for Streets Kitchen said: “Streets Kitchen operates voluntarily directly on the streets across London seven days a week assisting growing numbers in need. We constantly witness and receive far too many reports of overzealous policing targeting those experiencing homelessness by using so-called ‘anti-social’ behaviour legislation to move people on and away from where they may be getting some simple shelter or rest in an area where they may be linked to vital services- such as food and advice. Constantly moving people on for no other reason than they have nowhere else to go is wrong and unacceptable.

“We have found the CPN bust cards are a vital tool to show some humanity and solidarity while sharing legal knowledge and empower all those experiencing homelessness to stand up against hostility and life threatening criminalisation.”

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

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