CPN issued to homeless street artist

4221396001_5757151986001_5757153117001-vsAn increasing number of Community Protection Notices (CPNs) are being issued to homeless people, forcing them out of town centres or even putting them in jail. Recent cases include:

A homeless pavement artist was chased out of Chelmsford by a CPN warning, threatening him with a fine. He was planning to return to Colchester, where he had also been issued with a CPN, but had successfully fought the order in court with huge public backing. This shows how popular local figures can also fall foul of these new powers. CPNs supposedly protect the community, but they are actually used to defend the interests of officialdom.

A Glastonbury man was convicted of nine breaches of a CPN. The CPN had ordered him to keep out of Glastonbury town centre, the town in which he lives, and therefore a highly unreasonable condition. The man may have been guilty of genuine offences, but the only thing he has been prosecuted for is visiting his own town centre. He has pleaded not guilty and given bail; no doubt he will use his liberty to wander around the town centre.

Police and council officers have been ‘getting tough’ on homeless people in Stourbridge. The homeless people who have refused to cooperate with authorities have been issued with CPN warnings; if they fail to comply they have been issued with CPNs, which gives officers the powers of arrest and prosecution. These policies are criminalising people for the mere fact of being homeless: they make it a crime to refuse to accept the hostel place, or the particular help that they are being offered. In fact, there are many good reasons why homeless people may not want to accept a hostel place, and this remains their right. The police officer justified the punitive action, saying: ‘the homeless people spoken to have all refused to engage with us or the local authority teams and charities and are making lifestyle choices.’ No: a crime is when you cause harm with intent; it is not ‘refusing to engage with us’ or ‘making lifestyle choices’.

Two men have been jailed for begging, one in Norwich and one in Bedford. When they are released from jail, they will be subject to Criminal Behaviour Orders, barring them from large areas of their respective town centres. If they violate the CBO, they could be issued with even lengthier prison sentences. This shows how these new powers amplify one another, and persistent non-compliance can mean substantial prison terms. In every case, the offence is not a harmful act, but merely the non-compliance with an official order (such as not to beg, or enter a town centre). A person could end up with a sentence normally given for the crime of assault, when all they have done is ask for spare change or enter a town centre.