Love Activists Brighton Other Writing

HOMES NOT HANDCUFFS: Stop Criminalising Homelessness and Begging


Public Demonstration

  • Wednesday 20th January, 12-3pm

  • Outside Brighton Magistrate’s Courts, Edward Street, Brighton, BN2 0LG

stop criminalising homelessness


Increasing numbers of homeless people are being arrested for begging in our city and around the country under the archaic Vagrancy Act 1824: [1] In 2013-14, 2771 people were arrested and prosecuted for begging in the UK. This was over 1000 more than the previous year, a 70% increase. [2]

People are being sent to court, facing fines which they can’t afford to pay without begging, which risks further arrests and fines.

Begging, to pay off fines for begging

This approach is of no benefit to the community. It is a waste of tax payers’ money and of police time. More importantly, it is an added stress for vulnerable individuals who already have enough difficulty struggling to survive on the streets or in temporary accommodation.

 Controversially, begging was made a recordable offence in December 2003, as part of the Government’s drive to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. The move was strongly criticised by the homeless charity, CRISIS who warned at the time that:

“The alleged proposals to make begging a recordable offence and  tackle it through the criminal justice system are inappropriate,  ineffective, costly and will not work as they do nothing to tackle the  root causes of begging.  This is not the first time that enforcement has  been tried and it will not be the first time that it fails”. [3]

Recently, when a magistrate asked why the police were arresting so many people for begging, the clerk in the court room replied “because begging gives the city a bad reputation”. This is completely unacceptable and precisely the wrong headed approach which has allowed the problems of deep poverty and homelessness to go untreated for so long.




People who are homeless are consistently ‘moved on’ from public areas, especially from the central streets of Brighton. This uncompassionate, odious responsiblity falls to the police, who apply Section 34 & 35 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act Dispersal Orders. [4] Asking someone who is homeless to ‘move on’ when they have nowhere else to go, is like asking someone to walk through a brick wall, as has been described to us by many homeless people. It’s not just unfair, it’s unusually cruel.


We would very much like you to join us outside Brighton Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, 20th January in solidarity with homeless people who are being discriminated against and criminalised. We want to raise awareness of this issue. We want to stand with those most vulnerable in our city who are threatened every day with the enforcement of immoral laws when they deserve compassion and support.

We want to persuade the authorities to radically shift their approach. We demand immediate action now, not empty rhetoric about what the council’s ambitions are for 2020.

We will be launching a petition on the day of the demo to Decriminalise Homelessness and Begging: If you can’t make it along, you can participate in the twitterstorm by tweeting the hashtag #HomesNotHandcuffs

This document was written collaboratively by Love Activists Brighton using

You can find out more about our Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness by visiting this 38 Degrees petition:

Please read, sign and share as far and wide as possible.




By Ann Narkeh

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