Growing numbers of homeless people are being fined, given criminal convictions and imprisoned for begging and rough sleeping according to an investigation published by the Guardian on Sunday.
More than 50 local authorities have public space protection orders (PSPOs) in place.
The report, compiled by the Guardian after a Freedom of Information request, found that local authorities in England and Wales have issued fixed penalty notices and pursued criminal convictions for begging and loitering since they were given strengthened powers by the then home secretary, Theresa May in 2014.
Since then at least 51 people have been convicted for breach of a PSPO for begging and loitering, with some even fined up to £1,100, the Guardian found.
Breaching a PSPO can result in a £100 fixed-penalty notice, a summary conviction and even a criminal behaviour order (CBO), which bans any future begging. If they fail to pay, they can face a fine of up to £1000 with a CBO violation resulting in five years in prison.
The introduction of PSPOs in 2014 was intended to restrict how a particular public area could be used, but the report comes following updated Home Office guidance in December last year stating that PSPOs “should not be used to target people based solely on the fact that someone is homeless or rough sleeping, as this in itself is unlikely to mean that such behaviour is having an unreasonably detrimental effect on the community’s quality of life which justifies the restrictions imposed”.