Friday, 27 June 2014

New injunction order granted against persistent beggars in Leeds city centre

Persistent beggars face tough action if they continue to operate in the city centre after a new injunction order was secured by Leeds City Council.

Granted at Leeds County Court, any individual served with the injunction will be unable to beg in any part of the city centre or central train station. If they breach this order, hearings will be fast tracked to the county court, where they could face a range of sentencing including prison or a fine.

The securing of the injunction order follows a range of work currently being undertaken by Leeds City Council’s Safer Leeds team and West Yorkshire Police to crack down on begging, and specifically target those people who are not homeless and do not have to live on the streets, but continue to ask the public for money despite support services being made available to them.

Councillor Mick Coulson, Leeds City Council’s lead member for community safety said:

"Working with partners and a wide range of groups and organisations across the city, we are determined to do everything possible to help anyone living on our streets that desperately need our help. This remains one of our continued aims, and we would urge anyone who is homeless to contact us as soon as possible to find out the support that is available.

"What we will not tolerate however are those people who have absolutely no reason to beg, refuse any offers of help, and instead decide to continue begging in the city. This is completely unacceptable and the reason why we have gone to court to secure this injunction order which will give us tougher powers to stop these individuals begging in the city centre or train station."

In January 2013, a campaign was launched by Leeds City Council and partners to remind members of the public that giving money to any individual begging in the city centre is a crime, and to instead donate their money to those services providing free, meaningful support to the homeless. This forms part of a wider strategy currently being delivered by the council and partners, which is providing meaningful support and services to those people who really need help and undertaking a range of initiatives to both prevent and tackle begging.

Councillor Bill Urry Leeds City Council’s lead member with responsibility for homelessness said:

"If you are thinking of giving money to beggars, we would instead urge you to donate to those services in Leeds doing a tremendous job providing free food, shelter, advice and support. This will ensure that your money is reaching those people that really need your help."

Superintendent Sam Millar, West Yorkshire Police said:

"Begging in the city centre is an issue that prompts concerns and regular complaints from the public, and the police have been working closely with the council and homeless organisations to develop long-term solutions that will have a longer term benefits on the problem.

"The injunction awarded to the city over the last few days gives us another tool with which to address the behaviour of some hard-core of beggars who we know are not homeless and are in receipt of monies. It is part of a wider partnership approach to tackle the issue while also recognising that those with addictions or mental health issues are more likely to receive the help they need if they are encouraged to move away from begging activities and engage with services available to them on the street.

"Leeds City Council and key partners have commissioned a range of services to support the individuals in Leeds who feel the need to beg on the city’s streets and our aim is to break the cycle of begging, with all the threats that poses, and help individuals make decisions to enhance their quality of life."

Notes to editors:

For more information on the free services provided to rough sleepers in Leeds please visit the following websites:

- CRI Leeds Street Outreach Team www.cri.org.uk
- St Georges Crypt www.stgeorgescrypt.org.uk
- St Anne’s Community Services www.st-annes.org.uk
- The Big Issue in the north Trust www.bigissuesinthenorth.com
- Emmaus Leeds www.emmaus.org.uk/leeds
- Simon on the Streets

Anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough can call the CRI Street Outreach Team on
Tel 0113 245 9445 or during out of office hours the Council Emergency Duty Team on Tel: 0113 2409536

For media enquiries, please contact;
Colin Dickinson, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 39 51578
Email: colin.dickinson@leeds.gov.uk