Council consults on tougher penalties for anti-social behaviour in public spaces

What isn’t included in this list of anti-social behaviour is begging.

I have just completed the survey in a personal capacity and included the following explanation of why Public Space Protection Orders should also apply to begging:

There are an increasing number of beggers on the streets in Forest Hill and other town centres.
There are regular people with regular stories about broken bikes, needing cash for bus, needing money for food (but refusing food), etc
Some of these beggars, like some of the people drinking in the high streets, can become aggressive particularly aiming their aggression at more vulnerable individuals including lone women and children. This is unacceptable behaviour on our streets and the police do not have appropriate powers to deal with the situation.

I had previously raised this prior to the start of the consultation and received the following response:

Thank you for your email regarding concerns of begging. We are indeed about to consult on a new PSPO over the next few weeks, unfortunately we are not at this stage proposing that it covers the issue of begging as we do not have evidence to present as part of the case. However as part of the public consultation on the new order we will be asking for suggestions of any other issues of concern that residents feel need to be addressed, and one of the suggested issues will be begging. If there is a strong response from residents that begging (or any other nuisance behaviours) is something they are concerned about and they feel needs to be included then we will make a recommendation to mayor and cabinet that it is included.

I hope that forum users will consider whether you feel this is an appropriate response to the issue, and consider including begging in the range of anti-social behaviour that Lewisham council is giving the police the powers with which to deal with the problem.

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I’ve just completed the consultation survey and included comments about begging too.

Police need to be empowered to tackle people who abuse public generosity, fuel organised crime, and hurt the cause of the genuinely homeless and needy.

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I shall fill this in but whilst I agree with many of the offences I shall be making it explicitly clear that it should not be extended to begging.

There was a similar story recently of homeless people in Oxford being fined £250 for the ‘offence’ of sleeping in doorways for shelter from the elements and I was appalled at the heartlessness of such a council. I certainly do not want to see this repeated in Lewisham. Whilst there are certain people who you may perceive as undeserving or ungenuine in their need, the majority of people begging (note, not beggars) are there because of a myriad of horrible reasons and circumstances; job loss, beareavement, rejection from families, addiction etc… the list is endless and can happen to any of us at any time so let’s not create a complacent divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

There are many homeless people in the area recently, especially around the centre of Forest Hill. None of them have ever come across as threatening or aggressive. I don’t know their stories or reasons for being there, and I assume most here don’t, so to deem them all as somehow fuelling drugs gangs is completely unhelpful.

Homelessness is not a crime and shouldn’t carry a punishment. What homeless person has £100 to spare? These people need help, not further ostracision from ‘normal’ society.

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I appreciate your comments and it is not my aim to stigmatize all homeless people, buskers, people sleeping rough, selling the Big Issue, or even occasionally begging. But there have been plenty of reports on local forums of completely unacceptable anti-social behaviour, deliberately conning people, threats of violence, and completely unacceptable language in front of children.

It is a similar problem to street drinking and PSPO have been a useful tool for the police to tackle this. The police have limited powers against people begging and are less able to deal with this issue than the issue of street drinking or (according to the consultation) dealing with dogs walking on leads in nature reserves.

You shouldn’t confuse homelessness and begging. Some of the people begging in the centre of Forest Hill have fixed addresses, they haven’t fallen off their bike, and they aren’t hungry for food.

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I assure you I am not confusing homelessness with begging. Whilst I appreciate there may have been incidences mentioned on forums, it is not enough to go on hearsay of a few incidences on social media sites to legislate across an entire borough.

I have asked the council to make more of an effort to have people out on the street to help these people. If they are homeless to help them find accomodation and routes into getting back into employment, or if as you mention there are other circumstances, particularly involving drug addiction, that they are lead to appropriate help. Drug addiction, like homelessness and begging, should not be a crime. It is a health issue that people should be entitled to help with.

My point summed up is that it too much of a fine line to be covered with a sweeping piece of legislation. Obviously aggressive behaviour is unnacceptable and most would agree is a problem, but to many in society simply seeing a person sleeping in a doorway or sitting peacefully with a cup is offensive enough in their eyes and would warrant a call to the council to hand out these orders.

The local police use their connections in the council and support services to avoid punishing genuinely homeless people. They have access to information that we don’t, and I trust their judgement.

A beggar was recently given a warning by the police, and this was an entirely proportionate response IMO. As pointed out on the other topic, this particular beggar is not genuinely homeless.

The police warning was ineffective as the beggar returned after the officers left.

So, the police need to be further empowered to act on behalf of all residents, and continue to act with discretion and fairness. No one should feel unsafe walking through Forest Hill high street at night. No one should be conned out of their hard-earned money.

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I walk past the woman under the train bridge almost every day. She sits silently. Never asks for anything, always smiles and says hello back. In no way is she making anyway feel unsafe.

Regardless, even if she is living in a house, under what circumstances or conditions we don’t know, and is using the money for drugs - in what way will fining or arresting her help? A drug user resorting to sitting under a bridge for money will only be doing so twofold if £100 is taken from her and the situation will be worse.

What she needs is medical and social help. Not a criminal record that will only hinder her chances at getting back into society.

Fining a hypothetical drug addicted beggar £100 at the end of their “working day” will take a proportion of their “earnings” and make Forest Hill a less lucrative area in which to base themselves. If they were to move on, there will be less money going to local drug gangs (and thus fewer knock-on social problems).

Beggars are individuals capable of making their own life choices, and they will make a value judgement if fines reduce the proceeds of begging.

I don’t like us deciding people are incapable of making their own life choices and, as strangers, forcing them into social / medical care that they haven’t asked for - in my mind that takes something away from them as individuals and is not the obvious solution you imagine it to be.

The help is there if they want it. We have no right to force it on them.

We do have a right to challenge certain individuals on the streets that are not genuinely homeless, and who exploit public generosity to channel money into organised crime.

Do PSPOs result in a criminal record?

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I don’t like ‘us’ casting judgement and punishment on her without full, concrete, knowledge of her circumstances.

And no, in absolutely no way does suggesting she might need help detract from her as a person. Most addicts are blinded by their addiction and in many circumstances require intervention. If this was a friend working in an office that we thought had an alcohol problem, for example, we wouldn’t dismiss it as ‘well you chose this, you sort it’, we would help them even if they didn’t want it.

So yes, health and social help is what she needs. And the drug gangs need the police. If indeed she is coerced by them into this, I believe it is fair to punish the exploiter and not the exploited.

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As pointed out above - this is not the case. PSPOs would be administered in a case-by-case fashion by local officials - not by a nasty mob in some unruly online forum :slight_smile:

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It appears this topic has veered into a discussion. No speculation of a person in this community. I thought this was deemed inappropriate on t’other topic. There’s a lot of detail on this persons circumstances, assumed or otherwise. Not right.

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I find the discussion also uncomfortable and rather hoped a moderator would have stepped in by now for reasons raised in the post above

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I continue to share much of your outlook and don’t wish to stigmatise anybody in our community (or presume to talk about personal circumstances of specific individuals).

PSPOs have been used for anti-social behaviour associated with street drinking. This doesn’t mean that the police automatically slap a £100 fine on anybody enjoying a refreshing can of super strength lager in the morning, it allows the police to deal with problematic behaviour in the town centre, use the PSPO to temporarily require the individual(s) to leave the area. If they fail to adhere to this or if they are given further PSPOs and break these, then fines may be imposed. Over the last six years it has had a positive impact in Sydenham as well as Forest Hill with regards to street drinking. I believe a similar approach is appropriate for dealing with problems associated with begging, rather than the police just getting a lot of verbal abuse from the individuals involved.

The issue came up at the Forest Hill Safer Neighbourhood’s Team ward panel and my request for inclusion of begging as a criteria is a result of the local police seeing it as a possible way to deal with a problem that has been getting worse in our town centre. I believe our local police would use such powers appropriately, proportionately, and when other approaches have failed. As I understand it, they do would with a number of other agencies to help people with mental health issues, drug addition, alcohol dependency, and a range of other problems that are common with street drinkers and people persistently begging.

I hope you can appreciate my perspective, I certainly do appreciate your perspective, in fact I would be disappointed if somebody didn’t make these points on the forum. It is a difficult issue, I don’t claim to have all the solutions, but I think the issue of PSPOs for begging is something that should be discussed, and for council officers and police officers as well as forum participants to consider the advantages and disadvantages of such a system.

I am concerned about the discussion of personal details on this forum. Perhaps @anon5422159 would be able to amend his post rather than having to ask moderators to take any action?

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I appreciate the in-depth explanation the issue Michael. It’s very informative and I’m very glad to hear that they aren’t instant fines and that there are trained health professionals being made available to these people.

I agree the orders can be useful for a wide range of services and if used sensibly and responsibly, as you suggest, then in many circumstances would be beneficial to the community. I like to believe we should trust in our police force because they do amazing, tough work. But I would hope to see stringent, accountable guidelines in place for cases involving this particular area to ensure fair treatment of vulnerable people.

With regards to individuals’ personal circumstances I have touched upon I would just like to add it is all from what I have read over various posts for various reasons in recent days and weeks, and being a new poster am only following from what I’ve seen. Nonetheless I appologise for any offence caused. The crux of the matter, and reasons for my discussions, is that it just doesn’t sit well with me to see individuals using well meaning community forums to encourage the demonisation and stigma of less fortunate members of our community. Because even though they may be ‘beggars’ they are still part of the community.

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