Hackney Council published an amendment to the Public Safety Protection Order on 5 June removing references to rough-sleeping from the policy. With planned protests of over 1200 people and a public petition surpassing 80 000 signatures Hackney Council has backed down in the face of public pressure.
However, begging and urinating in public places, activities that are unfortunately often necessary activities due to homelessness and rough-sleeping, remain fineable offences. There is also concern that this order gives individual officers a huge amount of discretionary power to criminalise people as and when they see fit.
Digs and Reclaim Hackney, a new organisation formed to fight gentrification in the borough had roundly condemned Hackney Council, especially Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden, for their cruel and misguided plan.
Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden had maintained complete defence of the order, stating that it was a last resort and would help the most vulnerable. Reclaim Hackney and Digs dismiss this defence outright, pointing out that this was little more than the criminalisation of the homeless.
Worryingly Cllr Linden continued to defend the policy stating “The point of the order was to push people into treatment, and if necessary we would seek injunctions rather than fines.”
Whilst welcoming Hackney Council’s decision not to use this order the criminalise the homeless, they are calling for the PSPO which is being increasingly used to target street people, be withdrawn altogether.
Heather Kennedy an activist with Digs – Hackney Renters said:
“We’re glad Hackney council has seen the error of their ways in trying to apply this order to criminalise rough sleepers. But Hackney council have neither apologised nor recognised why it has caused such a groundswell of public outrage. Worse still, the amended order can and will be used to target street people and criminalise their existence in public space. We know it is already being used to harass rough sleepers. This is particularly hard to swallow because we also know just how terribly homeless people are treated by Hackney council. To say housing and support is provided for every homeless person is at best deluded and at worst an outright lie. Vulnerable homeless people are routinely turned away by the council with no meaningful offer of support or housing.
People sleeping rough often have no choice but to beg and urinate in public places. The council have plenty of other powers to target anti-social behaviour. This order is designed to penalise vulnerable people and is an attack on freedom of assembly and freedom of speech in public.
We won’t stand by and let them criminalise vulnerable people they have a responsibility to protect. We would have hoped the council’s conscience and judgement would have deterred them from pursuing this. But lacking that, the huge numbers of people willing to take action on this issue should convince them this PSPO is a dangerous mistake. This campaign won’t rest until we see the order overturned in its entirety.
It shouldn’t have had to take 80k people signing a petition, and threat of direct action and protests to make Hackney Council treat rough sleepers with a little human dignity. This campaign has shown that when we stand together we can tackle the housing crisis, not by demonising the few, but by demanding safe secure housing for everyone. This is just the start.”
We call on the thousands of people who signed the petition and signed up for the demonstration on the 22nd June to join us and tell Hackney Council to fully overturn this order and stop their targeting of street people.
We will also be demonstrating outside the Hackney council Labour Group meeting on Tuesday 16th June, 6:30pm where councillors will be deciding the future of the PSPO. Come along is you can!
Notes to editors:
- Media Enquiries:
- Heather Kennedy +44(0) 7894868918
- Kieran Aldred +44(0)7972191855
- The amendment to the PSPO can be found here: http://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/Amendment-to-PSPO.pdf
- Digs – Hackney Renters organises private tenants in Hackney to fight for a better deal for tenants. Digs campaigns for:
- The Market | That everyone have access to good, affordable housing that meets their needs.
- Security of Tenure | Everyone has access to long term, secure homes
- Landlord/ letting agent relations | Letting agents and landlords are regulated independently and tenants have accessible, effective mechanisms to enforce their rights. People are treated equally and with respect and honesty by landlords and agents who understand and fulfil their legal obligations. Renters always have accountability, transparency and recourse mechanisms to enforce their rights without penalisation.
- Housing Standards | All rented homes are of a good standard and meet renters’ needs. Renters always have accountability, transparency and recourse to accessible, effective mechanisms to enforce their rights without penalisation.
- A poster produced by Digs has been widely circulated on social media: