Ban that beggars belief

Leonard Hockey is addicted to heroin and crack cocaine and, like so
many in a similar position, has been begging to support his habit.

Not mugging people, not begging aggressively, but holding up a cup
and saying “can you spare some change”.

But he now faces two years in prison for contempt if he breaks a
court order banning him from begging on the streets of Manchester
city centre.

The judge castigated him for “ignoring” a police request to stop
begging while the council has described him as a “blight” on
Manchester. Neither response demonstrates much understanding of
vulnerable drug users.

Although begging has been illegal for some years it was not
punishable by prison. This new use of court powers changes that and
is a retrograde step and further evidence of the increasing
demonisation of vulnerable groups.

Prison is a haven for Class A drugs and is the last place to send
someone with a drug habit. Yet other authorities seem poised to
seek similar injunctions. Quite how jailing people like this
amounts to any kind of long-term solution or will promote social
inclusion or be of any help whatsoever to the individuals involved
is far from clear.

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