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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August, 2003, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Charities condemn beggar ban
Homeless beggar
Some people find homeless beggars intimidating
Charities and civil liberty groups have condemned a court decision to ban a beggar from Manchester city centre.

Leonard Hockey, 51, of Salford, faces up to two years in jail if found begging in the city, where he has been arrested 97 times before.

Other councils, such as Westminster City Council, are considering using similar injunctions to tackle the problem.

But charities and campaigners say the threat to lock beggars up is not the the way to deal with the problem.

They claim it will cost taxpayers more money, increase homelessness and drive beggars further away from the support they need.

Homeless charity Shelter said it fears a trend emerging towards criminalising people who live on the street.

A spokesman told BBC News Online: "This is a worrying signal of moves by local authorities to blame and penalise beggars.

All too many beggars hunched with their dogs next to car park pay machines are an intimidating presence
Adrian
UK

"This is punishment, rather than investing enough in services to ensure people have another option - such as the drug treatment many of them are desperate for."

He said imprisonment would increase the problem because a third of prisoners lose their accommodation while they serve their sentence.

Barry Hugill, spokesman for human rights group Liberty, also condemned the move.

He said: "Leonard Hockey is a beggar whose only crime has been to ask people for money.

"He is not violent, nor he is abusive and poses a risk to absolutely no one.

"It is every citizen's right to refuse to give him money if they so wish and there is absolutely no need for this draconian action.

Leonard Hockey
Leonard Hockey

"If he begs in Manchester again, he will be jailed, at enormous cost to the taxpayer and there can be no justification for that.

"Begging is an unpleasant aspect of modern society but anyone who believes that imposing jail sentences on beggars will solve the problem is living in cloud cuckoo land."

Shaks Ghosh, chief executive of homeless charity Crisis, said: "Leonard Hockey's 97 arrests represent 97 opportunities for intervention and 97 failures."

A Crisis spokesman told BBC News Online: "Begging is a humiliating and damaging experience - not done out of choice."

Nick Harris of drug, alcohol and mental health charity Turning Point, told BBC News 24 that treatment is crucial in weaning people off drugs.

"That's got to be part of the solution, not just criminalisation on its own."

'Begging funds drugs'

But Basil Curley, Manchester City Council's executive member for housing, said: "This sends the right message to people begging in the streets.

"These people are not hungry or homeless. Over 90% of profits from begging goes to fund a drug habit.

"In Mr Hockey's case this was used as a last resort. He has had 97 cautions."

Shelter's advice to people who fear money donated to beggars will be spent on drugs is to give it to a homeless charity.




SEE ALSO:
Beggar banned by judge
21 Aug 03  |  Manchester
First banned beggar avoids jail
04 Jul 03  |  Derbyshire
Beggar threatens to sue council
05 Jun 03  |  Nottinghamshire


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