05:00PM, Monday 03 February 2020
Thames Valley Police (TVP) has said it has moved away from its use of the 200-year-old Vagrancy Act after calls for the law to be scrapped.
The law, introduced in 1824, makes it an offence to sleep rough or beg and remains in force in England and Wales.
A new study by homelessness charity Crisis found TVP has the sixth highest number of arrests for people sleeping rough among police forces.
The were 47 arrests in 2018, down from 123 in 2014.
Nationwide, more than 8,500 arrests have been made under the act over the five-year period.
The study also found 70 per cent of people interviewed across the south agreed that arresting people for sleeping rough is a waste of police time, with over half stating that it should not be considered a crime at all.
Three-quarters of respondents agreed that criminalising people does nothing to help end homelessness.
Instead, respondents felt the best way to end rough sleeping was to support people into a home of their own.
A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: “It’s important to note that Thames Valley Police is one of the largest forces in the UK, so comparing forces that are smaller may not be helpful.
“The force has moved away from its use of the Vagrancy Act, and is committed to protecting vulnerable people.
“We work with various agencies to safeguard vulnerable homeless people, helping them to get the support they need.”
Lord Young of Cookham also spoke out against the act when he addressed the Lords’ chamber on Thursday.
“It has the unfortunate consequence of criminalising rough sleepers, by bringing them before the courts,” he said.
“This isolates them from the support that the Government are funding through housing and employment.”
He suggested that, since the act will soon be 200 years old, it is high time it is repealed.
The Government is currently reviewing parts of the Vagrancy Act.
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