Footage of rough sleepers’ tents being destroyed in November sparked fury among the public. As bin men cleared away the tents, one homeless person’s possessions were destroyed by Camden Council, and he was subjected to what has now been acknowledged as unlawful arrest.
It has taken two months and legal action, but the Metropolitan Police has finally recognised its actions were unlawful. But the incident raised bigger questions around the use of police powers against people experiencing street homelessness.
While reports of anti-social behaviour need to be taken seriously and the tents may have appeared unsightly to nearby workers and passers-by, we must remember this was a person’s home. And the way the police went about the arrest and removal of belongings was degrading.
It surely wasn’t a coincidence last year that after the anti-homeless rhetoric by then-home secretary Suella Braverman, the number of incidents that seemed to dehumanise those without a home increased too.
That apology is welcome – but new legislation could mean these sorts of incidents happen with increasing regularity.
Right now, the government is trying to rush the Criminal Justice Bill through parliament. Currently in the committee stage, the bill has already passed through first and second readings and is expected to reach report stage and a third reading within a matter of months.