'Don’t give money to street beggars' was the clear message that came from Southampton Magistrates Court last week as Mr Joseph Burns, 44, of Southampton became the first person to be prosecuted for a breach of the city's Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).
Joseph Burns, a tenant of Southampton City Council, was convicted for begging in Southampton City Centre. This activity was is direct breach of the PSPO, introduced by Southampton City Council in April 2016 which prohibits begging in the city centre. On 27 August 2016, Burns, was found begging in Eastgate Street Multi Storey car park in the city centre and was issued with a fixed penalty. The fixed penalty was not paid, leading to the court action being requested.
The court handed Mr Burns a 12 month conditional discharge and he was ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge. The court reminded Mr Burns that the PSPO remained in force and should he be brought before the court again for a similar matter, the sentencing would be more serious.
The Public Spaces Protection Order
On 29 April 2016, Southampton City Council introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) to control street drinking and begging within the city. The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 enables us to create PSPOs to control activities carried out in a public place which have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality. We carried out a public consultation, which showed strong support for the introduction of the PSPOs. Five localities were identified where street drinking and begging are having a detrimental effect on the quality of life, one of these locations was the city centre.
The PSPOs restrict street drinking (the consumption of alcohol in a public place) and begging. These orders are enforced by the police. A person who fails to comply with the requirements of the PSPO by drinking alcohol in a public place or by begging is committing an offence. Police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) can issue that person with a fixed penalty notice of £100. The PSPO also provides police officers and PCSOs with the power to require a person drinking alcohol in public to surrender their alcohol (or anything which is reasonably believed to be alcohol).
How you can help: Give to homelessness charities and not to individuals, contribute your change to lasting change for the people who need it. Read more about our campaign earlier this year to encourage people to give money to charity rather than individuals.
Although they are often linked in people’s minds it is important to note that begging and homelessness are two different issues. Many homeless people don't beg and the council and its partners are aware that many of those begging on Southampton’s streets are not homeless. We understand that local people want to help and we want to make sure their money is used in a positive way to help drive sustainable and lasting change.