Chris Rigby speaks against targeting of rough sleepers as BCP Council row intensifies

31 August 2020

Green Councillor Chris Rigby, a member of BCP Council's Overview & Scrutiny Board, spoke in favour of the removal and replacement of some Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), introduced by the former Conservative-led Borough of Poole, which are disproportionately used to criminalise rough sleepers.

However the attempt by the local Conservatives to not just retain but extend the current PSPOs intensified at the meeting, and has now been reported on by The Guardian under the headline "Dorset homeless people face fines for sleeping in doorways under Tory plans". If the Conservative bid is successful, PSPOs face a High Court challenge from the campaign group Liberty.

You can watch Chris's contribution to the debate during the Zoom meeting of the Overview & Scrutiny Board, and an edited transcript is below:

Chris said: "The parts which we want to take out... are directly targeting one group, and that group is the most vulnerable, that is rough sleepers. And that is what the issue with the original PSPO is.

[...] We are looking to leave in the three - drinking alcohol in public, possession, supply and use of intoxicating substances; or behaviour which causes harassment, alarm and distress - those ones can be applied to anyone. It is not looking at targeting people who are rough sleeping, who've fallen on hard times, anything like that.

"And if there is behaviour displayed from people who are rough sleepers - or aggressive begging, which is the main problem, not the actual rough sleepers, it is people who are doing this as an income stream, rather than to support themselves when they've fallen on hard times - it can fall under that final point of causing alarm or distress. And I think that's what we've got to focus on.

"The original PSPO didn't work. What actually worked was the intervention of the teams who were going out and engaging with people, and actually working towards getting people the help and the resources which they need to get themselves back on their feet.

"And that's what we should be focusing on.

"[...] We need to do what we can to support the people who need it, and then target the people who are taking advantage of situations - not just go out there and say 'This is the PSPO, everyone can just stop doing that now.'

"{...] We need to help these people, not target them. And having that specific thing in it is just targeting one select group of people. And it's just unfair."

National News


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