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Police rescind Community Protection Notice against homeless man after Liberty threatens legal action

The Metropolitan Police have dropped a Community Protection Notice (CPN) against a homeless man after civil liberties organisation Liberty threatened legal action.

Liberty argued that the CPN amounted to a "blanket ban on begging", with a series of "overly broad[,] unclear" and unlawful conditions.

The Met Police’s decision to hand the CPN to the man, 46, was a "typical example" of the police and local authorities "abusing their power" against rough sleepers, another charity, Streets Kitchen, claimed.

Liberty took on the man's case after the Metropolitan Police handed him the CPN in March.

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The man, who is not a native English speaker, had been living in a tent in the Tottenham Court Road area but, under the conditions of the CPN, was prohibited from pitching a tent or any bedding in a public place in the borough of Camden. He was also prohibited from possessing any open containers or cups.

The Police provided a translated copy of the conditions, but he did not receive a translated copy of the part of the CPN that outlined his right to appeal and the time frame for exercising it, breaching parts of the Anti-social, Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, Liberty claimed.

Among other legal arguments, Liberty contended the terms of the CPN breached the client's right to privacy and freedom of expression.

On his behalf, Liberty challenged the Metropolitan Police for their decision to issue the CPN, and the Police chose to drop the CPN before it went to a hearing.

Liberty lawyer Lara ten Caten said: "Police powers are being used far too broadly, and in this case illegitimately, to criminalise people for situations they can do little to avoid. The Government has committed to scrapping the Vagrancy Act.

"The Police are, however, still criminalising poverty by issuing CPNs such as this one – which stopped our client from even walking down certain streets, or from possessing a cup – which amounts to a blanket ban on begging."

A spokesperson for Streets Kitchen, a charity that helps people avoid penalties for sleeping rough and begging, said: "Far too often we encounter on our outreaches those experiencing homelessness being targeted by the police and Camden Council for no other reason than simply having no where else to go or put their heads down."

It called the case a "typical example of the Police and local authorities abusing their powers against very vulnerable people in an attempt to move the 'problem' out of sight and removing them from any kind of support network they may have developed or need".

A Camden Council spokesperson said supporting people to rebuild their lives away from the street was its "clear priority".

It added: "We work with our partners and the Police to ensure that people who are sleeping rough are offered a viable route away from rough sleeping before any enforcement is taken.

"Enforcement is only used as a necessary last resort to address anti-social behaviour and people who receive a CPN from the Police are signposted to support that is available from the council."

Camden reported that Liberty's client is now receiving support from the council, including assistance with housing and access to employment.

Adam Carey

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