Groups round on judge who banned beggar from centre of Manchester

A judge’s decision to impose a civil injunction against a
51-year-old man, banning him from begging in Manchester city centre
for two years, has been criticised by homelessness organisations as
“criminalising” those who live on the street.

Judge Richard Holman imposed the injunction on Leonard Hockey last
week at Manchester County Court, after an application by Greater
Manchester Police and Manchester Council under the Local Government
Act 1972.

“This is a sad day for homeless people,” said Crisis chief
executive Shaks Ghosh. “The injunction to ban Leonard Hockey from
Manchester city centre is yet another example of the coercion and
criminalisation of beggars and street homeless people.”

Hockey has substance misuse problems, has been arrested 97 times,
and spent seven years in prison for a variety of drug

But Judge Holman said Hockey was not homeless and destitute and had
been a secure tenant at his current address for more than a year.
“The implied threat that he will resort to other serious criminal
activity to feed his drug habits is not one to which the court can
or should bow,” he said.

Hockey’s solicitor, Ben Taylor, warned that the case would “open
the floodgates to bring a number of injunctions against other
beggars” and said he would be advising his client to appeal against
the decision.

Ghosh argued that criminalising people did not work as it failed to
tackle the root of the problem.

“Giving homeless people a criminal record worsens their situation,
making it more difficult to find housing and jobs,” he said.
“Leonard Hockey’s 97 arrests represent 97 opportunities for
intervention and 97 failures.”

Mike Tristram, director of the Simon Community, a voluntary group
that works with homeless people, said the response was often to
“punish the most vulnerable and needy in society” and this approach
was likely to just move beggars from one area to another.

Shelter’s director of external affairs, Ben Jackson, said the
charity was “very concerned” about the action and would encourage
local authorities to provide drug and alcohol recovery services to
tackle the causes of homelessness.

However, Manchester Council’s executive member for housing, Basil
Curley, said: “There is no need for anyone to beg because our
treatment services and support are second to none.”

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