Human rights organisation Liberty has urged the police to “stop wasting public funds and court time by issuing unreasonable CPNs [community protection notices] and bringing prosecutions that are not in the public interest”.
The comments from Liberty lawyer Lara ten Caten came after the Metropolitan Police revoked sanctions against a woman in North London who had been given a CPN on 11 October 2021.
Liberty said that over the following months, the woman had been forced to defend herself, represented by Commons Solicitors, against criminal charges for allegedly breaching the CPN, and faced further sanctions under the Vagrancy Act.
On the woman’s behalf, Liberty challenged the Metropolitan Police for their decision to issue the CPN, saying that her human rights had been breached.
The case had been due to go to a court hearing on 21 March, “but after five months and five court hearings, the police have now dropped all sanctions against the woman”, Liberty said.
The group argued that the police had failed to issue the CPN correctly, “having copied and pasted its terms rather than suggest the client was doing anything to actually require the sanction”.
They also failed to give her adequate warning, as required by law, and provided no evidence that she had engaged in the behaviour the CPN was supposed to deter, it claimed.
Remarking on the revocation of the notice, District Judge Laws reportedly stated that “Clearly these are draconian provisions which must be applied with a degree of humanity and proportionality. The Respondent will no doubt think carefully before imposing another notice in similar terms, which seem to me rather lurid and wide ranging.”
Liberty’s ten Caten said: “If any of us becomes homeless or finds ourselves out on the streets, we should be able to find support and safety. But rather than try to engage with the root causes of this issue, CPNs are designed to criminalise people who need help.
“Our client’s experience shows how unjust and perverse layers of laws are designed to ensnare people in poverty, and to make it harder and harder for them to avoid being criminalised for situations they can do little to avoid.
“The police should not be wasting public funds and court time by issuing unreasonable CPNs and bringing prosecutions that are not in the public interest. This U-turn from the Metropolitan Police should send a crucial message to all police forces and local councils that they must stop criminalising poverty and provide people begging and living in the streets with support instead.”