The Criminal Justice Bill: what impact will it have on our society?


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In the second part of our series on the Criminal Justice Bill (if you missed the first part you can read it here), we’re looking beyond the proposed provisions in the bill itself to the impact it will have not just on those facing homelessness, but on our society as a whole.

Here at Simon on the Streets, we believe the consequences will be both devastating and far-reaching. Take a look.

The eradication of justice

In the first very worrying instance, there’s no provision for a right of appeal where a Nuisance Rough Sleeping Direction will be issued. Whilst there are 21 days to appeal a Rough Sleeping Prevention Notice, this is a process that many of those facing homelessness will find difficult to do - the lack of access to a computer being just one of them.

The only foreseeable result here is that people will be facing fines they can’t afford to pay, and ending up with a custodial sentence as a result. 

It’s a strange kind of logic that requires an already financially-stretched society to foot the bill for costly prison places that nobody deserves in the first place.

This, we would argue, is the very opposite of justice.

A missed opportunity to address the underlying causes of homelessness

The draconian measures contained in the Criminal Justice Bill focus on the wrong things - it really is that simple. The focus is put on how a person smells for example, or whether they ‘look’ as though they going to be sleeping rough. Once those things are determined, people are to be ‘moved on’ or penalised in some other way. 

It’s our view that this will create a mindset of exclusion, and focus societies efforts on removing those who are facing homelessness. Efforts will be put into ensuring that people are out of sight, rather than providing them with the support that they so badly need. 

As a society, shouldn’t we be putting our efforts into addressing the underlying causes of homelessness? Trauma and addiction for example, along with domestic violence and mental health.

An increase in hidden homelessness

Those facing homelessness are no strangers to fear. For many, seeking support can feel quite daunting, and there’s often a sense of shame about the circumstances they find themselves in.

Because of this, and because of many other reasons, the Criminal Justice Bill runs the very high risk of increasing the number of hidden homeless.

Ultimately, this will make it even harder to provide support to those who need it the most, and to break the cycle of homelessness for good.

At Simon on the Streets, our outreach team see first-hand the challenges those facing homelessness are dealing with on a daily basis. If the Criminal Justice System is enacted into law, things will only get worse, not better.

That’s why we’re asking you to support the homeless charity Crisis, as they encourage us all to email our local MP asking them to take a stand and reject the Criminal Justice Bill. You can read more about their campaign and email your MP here.

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