'Aggressive' beggars will still face court despite '£75 penalty fines' being dropped

Aggressive beggars who pester high street shoppers for money will still face police action, despite proposals to fine them up to £75 being ditched.

Tuesday, 15th January 2019, 5:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th January 2019, 5:14 pm
Police said a PSPO scheme would not work.

Wakefield Council said that a consultation on introducing public space protection orders (PSPOs) to deal with the problem had resulted in a "mixed response", while the police believed it would be ineffective.

The orders, which are already used for street drinking in the district, would have applied to beggars in Pontefract and Castleford town centres, as well as Wakefield city centre.

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, portfolio holder for communities Maureen Cummings said that bringing in financial penalties was not the solution.

Coun Maureen Cummings, portfolio holder for communities, said it "didn't take an Einstein" to realise beggars would be unable to pay fines.

She said: "Introducing the PSPOs would mean anybody caught begging would be issued with a £75 penalty notice.

"It doesn't take an Einstein to work out that somebody who is begging, or who is homeless, can't actually afford to pay £75.

"What we've found is that when these people get to court, the courts are setting the notices aside."

A report on the consultation, which drew opinions from businesses and members of the public, said that opinion was divided on the matter.

It said: "While some people felt that begging was a problem and should be addressed by a PSPO, others disagreed, expressing the view that the council should be doing more to tackle the root causes of why people needed to beg, and also expressing concern that the PSPOs may target the homeless.

"A number of those who responded felt that some of the beggars were not genuinely homeless and were begging to fund drug or alcohol addictions."

Coun Cummings said that criminal behaviour orders could still be issued by magistrates to those causing a nuisance to try and prevent them from reoffending.

But she but added that the law would discern between those people and rough sleepers who were not causing distress and who genuinely needed help.

She added: "What we need to be doing is yes, tackling aggressive begging, but we also need to help those people who are passively begging and who need our help and support."

The PSPOs for street drinking, which have been widely hailed as a success since they were introduced across the district in 2017, are not affected by the proposals and will remain in place.

Local Democracy Reporting Service