ABERDEEN City councillors are to pursue controversial plans to become the first local authority in Scotland to outlaw begging.
Members of the city council’s housing and environment committee today voted to press ahead with the case for a by-law, making begging in some parts of the city illegal, despite being told by officials that the introduction of a new law was “highly unlikely to be successful.”
Members of the committee have now instructed officers to produce a draft by-law for submission to the full council on 21 August. Councillors will then decide whether the draft by-law should be submitted to the Scottish Government.
The local homelessness charity, Aberdeen Cyrenians, has already warned that outlawing begging in the city will only worsen the problems facing some the city’s most vulnerable residents. But the committee was told that Police Scotland had indicated the force would support the further investigation of a by-law.
In a letter to the council, Police Scotland stated: “Aberdeen City Division is supportive of our partners exploring further measures in how we positively deal with those who beg in Aberdeen. This includes our support for further investigation and appraisal of a by-law to prohibit street begging.”
Neil Carnegie , the council’s service manager for community safety , warned the committee in his detailed report: “The Scottish Government are unequivocal that they do not support by-laws for street-beggin
“The Scottish Government wrote to all local authorities in 2012 informing of their policy in respect of street-begging by-laws. The Scottish Government stated that ‘the act of begging itself should not to be criminalised and we will not support any by-laws that seek to criminalise the act of begging.’
“This gives a clear indication that the Scottish Government are highly unlikely to confirm a street-begging by-law and the committee may be concerned about investing officer time, predominantly from Housing
and Community Safety and Legal Services, to progress this matter when it is unlikely to succeed.”
He explained that a survey, conducted by police officers in February, had revealed that 31 individuals were regularly begging in the city - 19 UK nationals and 12 foreign nationals, mostly from Eastern
Mr Carnegie stated: “Most UK national beggars have alcohol or drugs misuse problems and are begging to fund their habits. Non-UK nationals tend to be begging because it is a relatively easy source of income.
“Most street-begging happens at evenings as a consequence of the generosity of people socialising in city centre.”
He added: “Police received 52 complaints about street-begging activity between 2010 – 2012. Most of these complaints include allegations of aggression and intimidation towards members of the public. None of the complaints resulted in relevant criminal charges which are available to police to deal with aggressive begging.
“It should be noted that police also receive complaints from street-beggars reporting as victims of aggression and intimidation from members of the public. Police have not brought any criminal charges over the past three years in response to aggressive street-begging. There are various reasons for this including that members of the public are often unwilling to provide formal complaints for police. “