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Over 1,800 convicted under Vagrancy Act

November 2nd 2010

In July's edition of The Pavement (The Act), we focussed on the Vagrancy Act, which came into law in 1824 and is still used to prosecute rough sleepers.

Offences listed under the act include begging and sleeping outside. It has clearly long outlived its usefulness and relevance to the modern world, especially given that it still lists "pretending to tell fortunes" and "wandering abroad" as criminal offences.

Using a Freedom of Information request, we found that 1,220 arrests were made in the capital in 2009, with 745 arrests for begging, the most frequent offence.

Since then, The Pavement has made another Freedom of Information request, this time to the Ministry of Justice, to find out the extent of its use around the country, and this time looking at the number of convictions. In 2008, the latest year for which the ministry has records, over 1,800 people were found guilty of breaking this arguably archaic law.

We also asked the ministry to provide us with a geographical breakdown of where the act was being used. Unsurprisingly, convictions were a great deal higher in large urban areas, with London and Manchester alone accounting for more than 700 of the 1,884 offences. Other areas that saw a notable spike in convictions were Merseyside and the West Midlands.

It is worth noting that convictions are not necessarily proportional to population. In Avon and Somerset, which includes Bristol and Bath, there were 42 convictions. In Merseyside, an area with a similar population, there were 190 convictions. This kind of discrepancy could be explained both by less strict police enforcement, or simply by certain areas having higher numbers of rough sleepers than others. Surrey, for instance, had just four convictions, and Dyfed-Powys in Wales has only one.


November 2010



London's hub

Why Rochester Row?

Over 1,800 convicted under Vagrancy Act

Estimates of ex-service homelessness exaggerated, claims charity

Gone, but not forgotten

A thousand cuts

Boris slammed by homelessness charity

Big Society event

Sleep outs spark debate

Homeless charities gear up for cuts

Children held for fire attack on homeless man in Jamaica

Housing associations treble surpluses

Homeless hate crime passed in Florida

Homeless tours of London

Punks party for the homeless

In from the cold

Ex-homeless Mr England

Housing benefit help

Council strategy restricts emergency beds

First new council homes in a generation

Evictions fall by a third

New changes to housing law

Churches charity urges government to meet housing targets

World Aids Day - 1 December

Could cuts see the return of hostels?

Street Shield 18: A mystery to solve


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