Oxford City Council are giving themselves new powers to entrap the poor, to criminalise them, put them into debt and into prison.

This Thursday the council vote on a measure to punish people begging near cashpoint machines by making them pay an on the spot £100 fine.

The council know most beggars won’t be able to pay this.

They know beggars will be forced to a Magistrates’ court and will have to pay at least another £150 in court charges.

They know most won’t be able to pay the increasing burden of debt and fines.

They know people will be imprisoned… for the crime of begging near a cashpoint machine.

The council’s defence is as weak as it is absurd. They say:

“…the intention is not to use the fixed penalty approach as the people concerned are unlikely in many cases to have the financial resources to meet a fine.”

So why bother bringing in this measure? They say:

“Instead, the PSPO will be used as a route to the Magistrates’ Court where magistrates have the power to require them to engage with the extensive and effective drugs, alcohol or homelessness services that are available in the city”

But what this means in reality is beggars will be subject to Grayling’s mandatory court charge of at least £150 as well as facing further punishment as is happening now:

Mark Smith, 38, of no fixed address, admitted persistently begging in a public place, Cornmarket Street, Oxford, in May. Also admitted breaching an antisocial behaviour order made on December 12 prohibiting him from sitting within 10 metres of a cash machine in Cornmarket Street. Sent to prison for 30 days and ordered to pay a £150 criminal courts charge.

Matthew Dobbs, 26, of Speedwell Street, Oxford, admitted begging in Cornmarket Street, Oxford, on March 28. Also admitted failing to surrender to custody at Oxford Magistrates’ Court without good reason on April 22. Fined £50 and ordered to pay a £20 victims’ surcharge and a £150 criminal courts charge.

Oxford City Council know that as soon as a beggar is sent to a Magistrates’ court they are setting them further on a path of indebtedness and exclusion

This is not about helping people, it is about punishing people for the crime of being poor. Begging prosecutions have increased by nearly 400% in the Thames Valley area and the new powers will only allow more. This has nothing to do with offering people help. All the council care about is socially cleansing the centre of Oxford so it looks nice. Oxford City Council are the Hyacinth Bucket of the Labour movement – they are concerned only with appearances.

Come and join us in taking action against Oxford City Council’s proposed PSPO (Public Space Protection Order) on MONDAY 12 OCTOBER. Meet at 10am at Carfax Tower where we will be installing street art to protest the measure.

13 comments on “BEGGAR TRAPS?!

  1. The 2nd guy you used as an example was given a £20 victim surcharge! Who was the victim????

  2. Isn’t this a Labour run council, with not a single Tory councillor? I’d expect this from the Tories – if it’s a Labour decision can Corbyn not intervene?

  3. because if there was no namable victim that would be obtaining money under false pretences and perverting the course of justice, right?

  4. The PSPO is about helping people – not just those who feel intimidated by beggars at cash points or late at night but also the beggars themselves.

    Oxford City Council spends £1.4m every year helping the homeless, including funding outreach work, day centres, and education, training and employment opportunities. More info here:

    Despite this, there is a small handful of people who refuse to engage with these help services and continue to beg in Oxford city centre.

    We know that many of these beggars are doing so to feed a habit, which is not good for them and it’s not good for the city.

    The redrafted PSPO now only targets those begging aggressively, such as those begging next to cash points, and categorically will not require them to pay a fine.

    Instead, it will require aggressive beggars to attend Magistrates’ Court, where magistrates will then require them to get the help they need – such as drugs or alcohol rehabilitation.

    We have tried cajoling beggars into the help they need but it just isn’t working. We think this will make the difference and be a turning point in their lives.

    Begging is illegal and the police have many powers to tackle it. You have mentioned some of the recent court cases in Oxford, most of which have resulted in bans from the city centres and fines.

    The PSPO won’t ban people from Oxford and it won’t fine people. It will instead require them to get the help they need.

    You can find out more information about the PSPO here:

  5. “Instead, it will require aggressive beggars to attend Magistrates’ Court, where magistrates will then require them to get the help they need – such as drugs or alcohol rehabilitation.”

    Where they will be charged the £150 criminal courts charge so waiving the £100 fine is futile.

  6. How can begging actually be illegal in the UK and when was the law passed? I for one find such a law entirely despicable and the mark of a uncompassionate society that no longer protects or cares for the most vulnerable in our society.
    Perhaps before passing such obviously morally bankrupt, foul and offensive laws the public should be consulted on the proposed law and allowed to voice legitimate legal objections to it. (particularly citizens of each county where local councils are implementing said polices).
    I say this as somebody who is training to work with the homeless because nobody deserves to be beyond help or hope, something oxford city council clearly has no objection to removing from the most desperate, vulnerable and damaged people who have been failed by our ‘modern’ society every step of their lives.
    Help people, don’t hinder them or criminalise them for having problems.

  7. @Paul Blackbuvn and @Ronnie: Many convictions in the Oxford courts report a ‘victim surcharge’ yet in many of those cases I cannot identify a victim who would receive that money. This case is not unusual in that respect. I don’t know if the victim surcharge is a local practice of inflating court fines unfairly or if it has a justified basis in law but has been badly-named.

  8. Speaking from ‘experience’ ( a Birmingham Street Performer, Public Musician of a few years now ) & echoing the words the words of the poet Baudillaire on the art scene of Paris during the early 1800’s, its my observation ( & ‘serious’ contention ) that most ‘Buskers’ are like spoiled children!.

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