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PSNI under fire for arresting and fining people found to be begging

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There were 35 arrests for begging here in 2015, rising to 88 in 2019

There were 35 arrests for begging here in 2015, rising to 88 in 2019

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There were 35 arrests for begging here in 2015, rising to 88 in 2019

The PSNI has been accused of taking an aggressive approach towards some of the most vulnerable in society by continuing to arrest and fine people found begging during the pandemic.

Figures released to The Detail reveal 21 people were arrested and six fines averaging £75 each were handed out between March and mid-December 2020.

Arrests for begging have increased in Northern Ireland in recent years, with more than 320 arrests under the 1824 and 1847 Vagrancy Acts since 2015.

There were 35 arrests for begging here in 2015, rising to 88 in 2019.

Some 74% of those arrested were later charged. Over £5,000 in fines were handed out in the same period. The majority of those arrested in 2020 were from Northern Ireland.

The figures cover those who were taken into police custody, not people who were dealt with through other means such as community resolution notices.

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said people should be given access to services instead of being given a criminal record.

"These Vagrancy Acts are really outdated and all it does is criminalise people that have fallen on hard times," he said.

"The PSNI have a responsibility and they're taking an aggressive approach by arresting and fining these people.

"They need to work with the department of Justice to remove these Vagrancy Acts," he said. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said Minister Naomi Long was aware of the issue.

"Recognising the cross-cutting nature of the issues involved, (the minister) has asked officials to review the use of this legislation, taking account of developments in neighbouring jurisdictions, and to advise her of their findings in the coming months," the spokesperson said.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said in a statement that the PSNI is "conscious that issues such as begging are challenging. The answer lies with wider society and policing is only one part of this."

He said the police consider a range of options before arrest.

Belfast Telegraph


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