THE CARDIFF RETAIL partnership has asked police in the Welsh capital city to invoke its Vagrancy Act in a bid to remove homeless people during the Olympic Games.
The outdated legislation – enacted in 1824 – speaks of ‘rogues and vagabonds’, and makes it an offence to sleep in public.
An excerpt from the Act makes it applicable to:
Every person wandering abroad and lodging in any barn or outhouse, or in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart or waggon (sic), and not giving a good account of himself or herself.
Despite being originally introduced as a means of combating the increase in homelessness following the Napoleonic Wars, the Act remains in effect today.
Speaking to WalesOnline, David Hughes-Lewis, the spokesman for Cardiff Retail Partnership, believes that beggars and homeless people may put off tourists to the city, whose numbers are expected to swell over the coming weeks, saying:
If this is a law which is still in existence and South Wales Police aren’t making use of it then the question is why? If it’s there to be used and the Met are using it then so should we.
Public reaction to the call has been largely negative, with social media used to express anger at the proposal. A Facebook group has been set-up which is urging people to show solidarity with the city’s homeless.
Welsh charity Shelter Cymru, which deals with housing issues in Wales, have responded to the call, saying:
Unfortunately, we are used to unsympathetic attitudes to homeless people, but this call to jail rough sleepers to make the streets look neater seems remarkably callous. We are talking about people here, not inconvenient rubbish to be cleared away.