What is the Criminal Justice Bill?


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The Criminal Justice Bill is a new piece of legislation introduced into parliament on 14 November 2023. Covering a number of different socio-economic issues including knife crime, anti-social behaviour and the powers given to the police and local authorities to manage them, it also contains provisions relating to those facing homelessness. 

Widely debated and highly contentious (to put it mildly), the Criminal Justice Bill has been opposed by a number of charities across the country - ours included. 

In the first of a two-part series, we’re taking a closer look at the Criminal Justice Bill and the powers it contains.

Replacing the vagrancy act 

If you’re familiar with the work we do and follow our content, you may heard us talk about the Vagrancy Act, a piece of legislation that has made rough sleeping a criminal offence for the last 200 years. Under the act, anyone found to be rough sleeping in our towns and cities can be fined up to £1,000, or moved on by those in authority

In 2022, the Vagrancy Act was repealed by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Despite this massive achievement, the relief was short-lived. Now, we’re faced with the Criminal Justice Bill, which, in the words of Crisis, demonstrates how the ‘UK Government is looking to reintroduce the worst parts of the Act with new laws’. 

What does the Criminal Justice Act actually do? 

If successful, the Criminal Justice Bill will make ‘nuisance’ rough sleeping a crime. But what does the term ‘nuisance’ actually mean? 

Nuisance rough sleeping can include, but isn’t exclusive to:

  • Sleeping in a doorway. 
  • Appear as though they might be preparing to sleep on the streets. 
  • Having an excessive smell. 

Here at Simon on the Streets, we simply fail to see how any of the above could be grounds for anything other than support, empathy and understanding, as opposed to criminalisation. 

What powers are given under the Criminal Justice Bill?

Under the bill, the police and local authorities are awarded a number of powers in order to deal with those who are rough sleeping. These include

  • Moving those who are rough sleeping on. 
  • Fines of up to £2,500. 
  • Imprisonment. 

The viscous cycle this legislation will create is as inescapable as it is unacceptable. Where will those who are rough sleeping be moved on to? How will those who are already plagued by poverty afford such a sum in fines? And how many will end up incarcerated in prison as a result? 

Here at Simon on the Streets, we’re urging each and every one of our supporters to join the campaign from Crisis - to stand against any legislation that seeks to make homelessness a criminal offence. All you need to do is email your local MP and encourage them to take a stand. You can do this here

As this very important campaign continues, there are so many ways in which you can make a difference to our work as a charity. To learn more about our upcoming events, and information on how you can get involved, all you need to do is get in touch

Alternatively, you can make a donation here. We can’t thank you enough for your support.

Next week:

In our blog next week, we’ll be looking at the devastating impact the Criminal Justice Bill could have on the members of our society who need our support the most.

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