Criminalizing homelessness is a worrying new trend on both sides of the Atlantic. In Manchester, England, the local government went as far as to get a court injunction to stop homeless people from erecting tents in the city to provide much-needed shelter and protection from the cold. When seven homeless people breached this injunction, the local government – ironically run by the leftist Labour party – began court proceedings against them. Penalties for the injunction breach were harsh: a £5000 fine and up to two years in prison.
Luckily, a judge threw out Manchester council’s case, declaring it was “a fundamentally misconceived and inappropriate way to advance criminal proceedings, where the council seeks that the court orders to commit people to prison. The failure to comply with the procedural directions and court order are so serious that the only proper course for me to adopt is to strike out this application.”
Judge Allan Gore also ruled that the council must pay defendants’ legal costs in the case, which could amount to many thousands of pounds. Homeless defendant Wesley Dove said: “Today justice has been served. We have said all along that we are not protesting, all we are trying to do is live. The council were trying to send us to prison for being homeless. It is not right.”
His solicitor Ben Taylor, who was also acting on behalf of two other defendants in this case, told the Manchester Evening News:
The degree of incompetence in making this application by Manchester council’s legal team is breathtaking, it beggars belief. My clients were petrified that they could be going to jail simply for living in a tent. I would have expected Manchester council to have done their job properly. The application was so fundamentally flawed it didn’t even get off the ground.
He welcomed the victory, but expressed concern that injustice would continue. “The application to commit was dismissed on procedural grounds and my clients are content with the outcome of today’s hearing,” Taylor said. “However the injunction remains in force, which means that the council are still able to apply to commit them to prison again.”
Manchester homeless rights activists have done a wonderful job supporting those living on the city’s streets. They have organized solidarity marches, set up soup kitchens, and collected essential items (including tents) to donate to homeless people in the city. Activists also played a key part in last Sunday’s march in protest of the Conservative government, whose policies have caused homelessness in Manchester to rise by a staggering 150%.
The disturbing video below shows how Manchester City Council is violating the rights of homeless people by sending bailiffs to terrorize and assault them. Footage shows a clearly distressed woman being dragged from her tent in The Ark homeless shelter in the Oxford Road area of the city, which was deemed an illegal camp. Bailiffs even pull down her pants as they man-handle her in what is a shocking and vile piece of footage. While she screams and cries, others can be heard shouting: “You can’t do that to a woman!” and “That’s evil!”
Last night, members of campaign groups Love Activists and Manchester Angels took over a disused building in the city and vowed to stay there “for months” to offer shelter, food and emotional support to homeless people who have been so badly let down by politicians. National and international activities are being planned for World Homeless Action Day on October 10, find out about events in your area by joining the Facebook group.
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