Beggars and rough sleepers in Suffolk continue to be prosecuted under a "cruel" act, it has been revealed.

Suffolk Constabulary made 32 charges under the Vagrancy Act between April 2015 and December 2020, which resulted in court hearings.

Courts heard a total of 11 cases about begging and 21 on rough sleeping or being in an enclosed space without permission in five years.

Those prosecuted under the 1800s law face a fine of up to £1,000 and a criminal record.

The housing secretary Robert Jenrick and homelessness charity Crisis have both said the act should be abolished.

Crisis said it drives vulnerable people away from support and can keep them on the streets for longer.

Lots of court cases have been delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic but despite this, the Crown Prosecution Service prosecuted five Vagrancy Act cases in Suffolk between April and December last year.

%image(15120904, type="article-full", alt="Housing secretary Robert Jenrick thinks the law should be abolished")

Mr Jenrick told the House of Commons in February that the act should be "consigned to history".

%image(15120905, type="article-full", alt="Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said the Vagrancy Act is "cruel, unnecessary and should be scrapped".")

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes was disappointed that the “offensive and counterproductive law” remains in place despite these Mr Jenrick's comments half a year ago.

He said: “We all agree that the cruel, unnecessary Vagrancy Act should be scrapped but it’s still being used week in, week out with devastating consequences.

“Fining people who already have next to nothing is pointless and just drives people further away from support, often keeping them on the streets for longer.”

Domenic Mann, an inspector for Ipswich town centre, explained any type of enforcement on begging or rough sleepers is a "last resort" and it was not their usual way of taking action.

Insp Mann said they usually use community protection notices to ban people from certain areas during certain times and "engage" with homeless charities and services to find people the help they need.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “The Government is clear that no one should be criminalised simply for having nowhere to live and the time has come to reconsider the Vagrancy Act.

“Work is ongoing to look at this complex issue and it is important that we look carefully at all options. We will update on our findings in due course.”