No rough sleepers have been prosecuted in Sussex for nearly five years, new figures show.

Statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that no one has been prosecuted for “begging” or “sleeping out” in the county since at least June 2019.

It comes as a new Bill heads through the House of Commons which would criminalise “nuisance” rough sleepers, an act campaigners have dubbed “clueless”.

The new government figures looked at how many people had been prosecuted under the Georgian-era Vagrancy Act which could mean rough sleepers being fined up to £1,000.

In the UK, 2,888 people were prosecuted under the act in the past five years, but only eight were from Sussex.

All eight prosecutions came in the year to June 2019 and were for begging.

A new bill proposed by the Home Office would give police more powers to tackle “nuisance” rough sleepers. Campaigners have criticised the vague wording of the act and say that homeless people and rough sleepers should not be criminalised.

Andy Winter, former chief executive of homeless charity BHT Sussex, said: “People shouldn’t be criminalised for being homeless and having to sleep rough.

“The government seem quite clueless. The new law is trying to deflect from its own failures when it comes to some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

Arrest figures released under a Liberal Democrat Freedom of Information request show that 2,412 people were arrested nationally since 2019 under the Vagrancy Act.

Sussex Police were not included in the FOI request. The force said it aims to safeguard the most vulnerable people in society and encourages its officers to “use their professional judgement” when tackling rough sleeping.

A spokesman for the force said: “Safeguarding the most vulnerable people in our society is a team effort and we work with partners across the county to ensure those in need have access to support services.


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“We recognise that not all rough sleepers are in their position by choice. As a police force, we are entrusted with ensuring the safety of the public, no matter their circumstances or background.

“Our officers use their professional judgement to deal with any situation they are faced with. We will take action as necessary where offences are committed, however often the most effective solution is to identify any vulnerabilities and signpost people to the appropriate agencies in the first instance.”

A government spokesman said: "We are determined to end rough sleeping for good and we have a plan to tackle the root causes of why people end up on the streets, backed by an unprecedented £2.4 billion.

He said the Vagrancy Act will be replaced with new legislation "focused on supporting people to get off the streets" while allowing local authorities and the police to "address behaviour that can make the public feel unsafe".