Hundreds across the West Midlands arrested for sleeping rough
Hundreds of homeless people have been arrested for begging and sleeping rough in the West Midlands, new figures show.
More than 600 people have been arrested for breaching the 1824 Vagrancy Act – an act of parliament that makes it an offence to sleep rough or beg – in the last five years.
Despite the law being described as "archaic" and "outdated", thousands of people across the country are arrested using its powers every single year.
In the West Midlands, 646 people were arrested between 2014 and 2017. This is the highest number of arrests of any region outside London, according to figures provided to Wolverhampton Liberal Democrats through a freedom of information request.
Nearly half of these arrests came in 2014, with the number declining every year since.
There were 272 arrests in 2014, 158 in 2015, 133 in 2016 and 83 in 2017.
Across the UK there are more than 1,000 arrests every year, although this figure has more than halved since 2014.
London had the highest number of arrests between 2014-17, with the West Midlands coming in second and Merseyside third.
Under the Vagrancy Act, anyone found to be sleeping in a public place or to be trying to beg for money can be arrested.
Liberal Democract MP Layla Moran has hit out at the law, which she says is not fit for modern society.
She said: "It is appalling that thousands of people every year are being arrested using an archaic and outdated law designed to deal with the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars rather than the realities of homelessness in the 21st century.
“Liberal Democrats will be keeping up the pressure on the Government to think again and scrap the cruel Vagrancy Act. People being forced to sleep on the streets need our help and support – not to be dragged before the courts under a heartless law dating back to 1824 just because they don’t have anywhere to sleep at night.”