PERSISTENT beggars in Leeds could face prison or a hefty fine if they continue to operate in the city centre – thanks to a radical new legal move that’s the first of its kind in the country.
A new injunction order secured by Leeds City Council aims to crackdown on a hard core of ‘fake beggars’, who can earn up to £600 a week.
The new tool means those served with the injunction are banned from begging in the city centre. If they breach the order, hearings will be fast tracked to Leeds County Court, where they could face the tougher punishments.
Previously, offenders were handed ASBOs, which could take months to go through the courts.
The new legal move is part of an ongoing crackdown on ‘fake beggars’ by the council’s Safer Leeds team and West Yorkshire Police, which targets those who are not homeless and do not have to live on the streets but choose to make money by begging.
Councillor Mick Coulson, Leeds City Council’s lead member for community safety, said: “We are determined to do everything possible to help anyone living on our streets that desperately need our help. What we will not tolerate however are those people who have absolutely no reason to beg, refuse any offers of help, and instead decide to continue begging in the city.”
Chris Fields, chief executive officer at Leeds homeless charity St George’s Crypt, said: “There are people out there taking advantage of people’s good nature.
“They are fake beggars – they have somewhere to live, have benefits and are choosing this as a quick fix. They can make something like £600 a week.
“It gives people who are genuinely in need a bad reputation and people who are absolutely desperate are missing out.”
He added: “Something quite radical has to be done.”
People are urged to donate to charities rather than give cash to beggars.
Anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough can call the CRI Street Outreach Team on 0113 245 9445 or during out of office hours, call the Council Emergency Duty Team on 0113 240 9536. WHAT DO YOU THINK? Click here to register and have your say on the stories and issues that matter to you