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Government amends legislation with view to ditching Vagrancy Act 1824 but repeal only to take place when replacement laws in place

The Government has tabled an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill providing for the Vagrancy Act 1824 to be repealed in full in England and Wales but will ensure that the repeal is not commenced until appropriate replacement legislation is in place, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing Eddie Hughes has said.

In response to a question from Cherilyn Mackrory, Conservate MP for Truro and Falmouth, about the timetable for bringing forward legislative proposals to repeal the 1824 Act, the minister said: “The Government remains absolutely committed to delivering on our manifesto commitment to ending rough sleeping, and as part of that, complete our review of the Vagrancy Act 1824.

“We agree that the Vagrancy Act 1824 is antiquated and no longer fit for purpose - that is why we have committed to repeal this outdated Act. However, we must balance our role in providing essential support for the vulnerable with ensuring that we do not weaken the ability of the police to protect communities.

“Therefore, while we have tabled an amendment in lieu that provides for the 1824 Act to be repealed in full in England and Wales, we will ensure that the repeal is not commenced until appropriate replacement legislation is in place. In the meantime, we will deliver a bold, new strategy to end rough sleeping which will set out how we will build on recent success and ensure rough sleeping is prevented in the first instance and is effectively responded to in the rare cases where it does occur, but also that our police have the ability to intervene where needed and to keep people safe.”

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Matt Downie, Chief Executive of Crisis, told The Mirror: “For almost two hundred years, the criminalisation of homelessness has shamed our society. But now, at long last, the Vagrancy Act’s days are numbered and not a moment too soon.

“This offensive law does nothing to tackle rough sleeping, only entrenching it further in our society by driving people further from support. We know there are better, more effective ways to help people overcome their homelessness.

“We thank the UK government for using the policing bill to finally consign this appalling act to history, where it belongs. We look forward to working with them to finish the job without delay and ensure the criminalisation of destitution is over.”

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