Shoppers pass a homeless man in Manchester

Local councils are fining and imprisoning homeless people

The Guardian has found 50 authorities using 'PSPOs' in questionable ways.

Homeless people across the country are being fined and in some cases sent to jail for begging, a Guardian investigation has found.

What it means: In 2014, the Home Office - the government department responsible for 'immigration, security, law and order' - introduced something called a 'Public Space Protection Order' (PSPO), which restricted how public (aka taxpayer-funded) spaces could be used.

Over 50 local authorities have been using these PSPOs to issue fixed penalties, fines, bans from town centres, and in some cases criminal convictions that land homeless people in prison for 'begging' and 'loitering'. In one case where a man was sentenced to 4 months in jail, the judge literally said, "I will be sending a man to prison for asking for food when he was hungry."

The economics behind these policies seems, to say the least, questionable. A lawyer for human rights campaign organisation Liberty said to the Guardian, "This approach just pushes people into debt or the criminal justice system." Given most homeless people aren't in work, it's difficult to see how councils expect them to pay off hundreds of pounds in fines – and keeping them in prison isn't free for the taxpayer either.

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