Labour pledges to repeal 19th century law which targets rough sleepers

Posted On: 
22nd December 2018

Labour has said it will scrap a nineteenth century law that criminalises rough sleepers if it wins the next election.

Nearly 600 homeless people died in 2017 according to the latest figures

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the 1824 Vagrancy Act was a "relic" which must be removed from the statute book.

Labour made the announcement in the wake of new figures which showed the rate of homelessness deaths has soared by 25% in the last five years.

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The Vagrancy Act was used to bring a criminal charge nearly 3,000 times in 2016, with those convicted facing fines of up to £1,000.

But Mr Corbyn said: "It should shame us all that rough sleeping has doubled in the last eight years and nearly 600 people died while homeless last year. Homeless people need help, not punishment.

"The next Labour government will make ending homelessness a priority. We want to build a society which doesn’t walk by on the other side when we see someone in need."

Shadow housing minister Melanie Onn added: "It beggars belief that we still use Georgian-era laws to criminalise some of the most vulnerable in society. Treating rough sleepers as criminals does not solve the underlying causes of homelessness and makes it harder for them to access support to move away from the streets."

"Rather than criminalising rough sleepers Labour would support them, with 8,000 new homes available to those with a history of rough sleeping as part of a plan to eradicate rough sleeping within five years."