Dozens arrested by West Mercia police for begging and sleeping rough
Dozens of homeless people have been arrested for begging and sleeping rough across West Mercia, new figures show.
More than 70 people across the policing area 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Despite the law being described as "archaic" and "outdated", thousands of people across the country are arrested using its powers every year.
Across West Mercia, which includes Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, 72 people were arrested between 2014 and 2017.
A total of 21 of these arrests came in 2014, with 20 in 2015, 10 in 2016 and 21 again in 2017.
In neighbouring West Midlands, 646 people were arrested between 2014 and 2017 – the highest number of arrests of any region outside London.
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, according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice.
Staffordshire saw 21 arrests over the same period with two across the Dyfed Powys policing area.
Across the UK there are more than 1,000 arrests every year, according to the figures provided through a freedom of information request, 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 Democrat 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She said: "It is appalling that thousands of people every year are being arrested using an archaic and outdated law designed to deal with the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars rather than the realities of homelessness in the 21st century.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.”