Ellie Goulding attacks Hackney for controversial measure which critics say ‘criminalises’ homeless people

Ellie Goulding slammed Hackney council for the recent PSPO put into effect in May. Pic: elliegoulding.com

Ellie Goulding slammed Hackney council for the recent PSPO put into effect in May. Pic: elliegoulding.com

Pop star Ellie Goulding has joined in the protest over the Public Space Protection Order that came into effect in large parts of Hackney last month which critics say penalises homeless people.

The measure aims to crack down on anti social behaviour, including begging and rough sleeping.

In a series of tweets, Goulding expressed her ‘disgust’ at the measure and urged her almost five million followers to support an online petition that aims to “stop criminalising Hackney’s rough sleepers.” By Thursday afternoon the petition had more than 68,000 signatures.

Hackney became the latest borough to introduce Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO), which allow police or community support officers to ask people to stop begging or sleeping rough in doorways or other public places. Those refusing to comply with the PSPO can be fined up to £1,000.

Opponents say the PSPO “privileges the appearance of Hackney and the convenience of customers over the damage caused to the vulnerable” and would effectively criminalise the homeless.

The online petition was initiated by Zahira Patel from Bromley, a paralegal specialising in police actions, civil liberties and human rights law.

Her statement said: “It is absurd to impose a fine of £1,000 on somebody who is already homeless and struggling. People should not be punished for the ‘crime’ of not having a roof over their head – there is nothing inherently anti-social or criminal about rough sleeping.”

Amid wide public concerns, the council issued a statement restating, “[it] has no intention of fining or taking action against these people” and said “there is no point fining people who can’t pay, and we will not seek to do this.”

Hackney, Tower Hamlets and City of London have recently been awarded £330,000 to run a joint project aiming to deal with the increasing number of rough sleepers in the area.

Councillor Sophie Linden, cabinet member for crime, sustainability and customer services said: “The PSPO is not about criminalising the homeless.”

“Anyone sleeping rough in Hackney is always offered the support and help that they need, firstly to get a roof over their heads in temporary accommodation, and then to help them get a permanent home. People who have found themselves being evicted, who have fallen on tough times and ended up sleeping rough are always helped.”

The council claimed PSPO targets only entrenched rough sleepers: “Who are causing serious problems for other residents with anti-social behaviour including drug use, drunkenness, public urination and defecation, and threatening behaviour.”

But Patel disagreed: “Despite the Council’s best interests, this measure would indeed ‘criminalise’ a rough sleeper who breaches an order for various reasons and it is highly likely that imposing a fine of £100 on rough sleepers will make their situation worse rather than better.”

“For example, having a criminal record will hinder these rough sleepers from obtaining jobs, opening bank accounts and other such activities which are vital to change their circumstances.”

“What we ask though, is that rough sleeping, even persistent rough sleeping or begging is not included in the list of behaviours deemed anti-social.”

Digs, a campaign group formed by renters in Hackney, is holding a meeting to discuss the PSPO tonight at 7pm at the Halkevi Centre on Dalston Lane.


Additional reporting by Magnus Peter Harnes.

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