Review of the Vagrancy Act: consultation on effective replacement

This submission sets out JUSTICE’s response to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ Review of the Vagrancy Act: consultation on effective replacement. In responding to the consultation, we drew upon existing JUSTICE Working Party reports, including Mental Health and Fair Trial (2017), Solving Housing Disputes (2020), and Tackling Racial Injustice: Children and the Youth Justice System (2021).

The themes that arise in this Consultation are also relevant to JUSTICE’s work going forward. JUSTICE is due to launch a Working Party looking at the operation and function of ‘hybrid orders’ – orders that are obtained via a civil process, but have criminal consequences if breached. As part of that work, JUSTICE will explore the use of Public Space Protection Orders (“PSPOs”) and Community Protection Notices (“CPNs”). Both CPNs and PSPOs often contain conditions which prohibit begging and other behaviours associated with homelessness. Where relevant, our response refers to research conducted for the purpose of that Working Party .

In summary, JUSTICE welcomes the repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824, which has a detrimental impact on homeless and socioeconomically disadvantaged people. In particular, the language used within the Act (‘rogues and vagabonds’; ‘lunatic vagrants’) and the general approach taken by it, are woefully outdated and have no place in British law and society.

However, we are deeply concerned by the Government’s proposal to replace the Vagrancy Act with a range of new offences. This is because poverty and homelessness cannot be solved through criminalisation. Rather, the Government should attend to the underlying drivers, and refrain from introducing new measures which would undoubtedly further marginalise individuals with complex needs for whom sustainable solutions lie outside of the criminal justice system.

Read our submission here.