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Stop Hackney criminalising our borough's most vulnerable people

This petition had 4,337 supporters


Last year, Hackney council attempted to criminalise homeless people through Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), banning ‘anti-social activities’ such as sleeping rough or begging. The success of a petition - signed by over 80,000 people - shamed the council into backing down, publicly acknowledging that they were wrong to make the lives of already vulnerable people worse through the use of enforcement legislation. 

But a year on, it's happening again. This time, vulnerable people are being ordered to disappear from a given area for up to 48 hours. This is happening through dispersal orders, handed out at will by the police - who work in partnership with the local authority - to people whose behaviour in the area they ‘suspect’ is ‘likely’ to contribute to ‘anti-social behaviour’.

Dispersal orders are being issued to at risk, socially excluded people - street sex workers, the homeless and people who beg – often without any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever, aside from having a ‘history’ of being involved in certain activities.

Those being handed dispersal orders are already vulnerable and have complex needs. They are often experiencing acute mental or physical health problems, stigmatisation and violence - and yet they are being criminalised rather than supported. Having been forced to accept a dispersal order, an individual who then breaches its terms - i.e. being present within 48 hours in the specified area (probably the area where they live, work and know friendly faces) - can be arrested.

At Court most will be ordered to pay a fine - paying the fine means selling sex for sex workers, or begging for those who beg. The very ‘crimes’ they have been penalised for. Those who are unable to pay the fine, or don’t turn up at Court, also face imprisonment.

All this because a (vulnerable) individual is ‘suspected’ to be ‘likely’ to contribute to ‘anti-social behaviour’.

The most vulnerable in our communities need safeguarding, with the support of skilled services to address their complex needs and support their health and wellbeing. Enforcement and criminalisation make matters worse, not better.

Hackney is a diverse and tolerant borough, and the people who live here recognise the deep inequalities present in our society. We believe the majority of Hackney residents do not support the criminalisation of sex workers, the homeless and those who beg.

Please take a moment to sign this petition to demand that Hackney council puts a stop to unjust enforcement against vulnerable people on our streets.  

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