The government has confirmed that it will repeal the Vagrancy Act, the 1824 law which allows police to arrest and charge people for sleeping rough or begging in England and Wales.
The law gives police the power to arrest people found in enclosed spaces or begging in public. Currently, anyone convicted under the law could face a £1,000 fine and a criminal record for two years.
The repeal follows the Scrap the Act campaign run by Crisis, which was supported by Emmaus and other homelessness charities, as well as Peers and MPs of all parties and people with experience of homelessness.
Charlotte Talbott, Chief Executive of Emmaus UK, said: “The Vagrancy Act has long been used to criminalise homelessness, driving people forced to live without a home further from the support they need.
“This outdated law further entrenches damaging and false assumptions about the experience of homelessness and destitution. We welcome all legislative changes that address the marginalisation of people experiencing homelessness and urge the government to repeal all laws which further marginalise those who are in greatest need.
“We’re grateful to the government for using the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to remove the damaging Vagrancy Act in a step towards helping people experiencing homelessness to access effective and long-term support.”
MPs were set to vote on an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill proposed by the Lords which repealed the act, but the government has now tabled its own amendment to enact repeal. MPs will vote on the amendment next week when the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill returns to the House of Commons.