Under the injunction – granted last June in Leeds County Court – “persistent beggars” faced possible prison or a hefty fine if they continued to operate in the city centre. It was said at the time to be the first restraining order of its kind in the country.
A legal challenge followed after two individuals were served with injunctions in July and August and applications were made to commit them to prison.
And that challenge led to today’s ruling by a judge of the High Court at Leeds District Registry to quash (or “discharge”) the injunction.
Why was it quashed?
Well, I’m no legal expert, and I’m relying on a report posted following today’s ruling on the website of Garden Court North Chambers (the barristers representing the two individuals).
It’s all I’ve got to go on … and it’s in legal.
The report says that the council “obtained the injunction/restraining order from ‘begging’ in Leeds City centre against ‘persons unknown’, even though a number of the alleged beggars, including our clients Mr X and Mr Y, were known to Leeds City Council”.
“Mr X and Mr Y were both then served with the injunction after it had been obtained despite being later described in Leeds City Council’s own evidence as known beggars,” the report says.
“Statutory remedies … should have been used”
Applications were subsequently made by the two individuals to have the injunction set aside or discharged on the basis that (again according to the Chambers’ report):
1 The Court did not have power to make it as there are statutory remedies that should have been used
2 It was an abuse of process not to name those it knew and alleged to be begging when the injunction was sought and then to seek to enforce it against those persons.
3 In any event the criteria for an injunction restraining a criminal offence or public nuisance were not met (especially as Parliament had reduced the penalty for the offence of begging to a Level 1 fine)
4 The injunction failed to consider the personal circumstances of the individuals concerned and was impermissibly made against “all persons”.
5 Should not have been granted as it subverted the prohibition on the making of bye-laws without the permission of the Secretary of State.
“No grounds for injunctions being made”
The report goes on: “The council conceded that the injunctions should be discharged against Mr X and Mr Y and that the committal applications should be dismissed with costs, but originally sought that the remainder of the injunction remained in place.”
“His Honour Judge Saffman, however, required Leeds City Council to show why the injunction should not be discharged in its entirety as if the injunction could not be maintained against Mr X or Mr Y it could not be maintained against any other person and after hearing brief submissions held that he should discharge the injunction entirely,” it says.
What are the possible knock-ons from the ruling? Here’s one from the Garden Court North Chambers’ report:
“Judges and lawyers should be aware that local authorities do make applications without notice to obtain these injunctions when there are no grounds for them being made and that they should be challenged. It is understood that apparently unlawful begging injunctions of this type may be in force in other cities in England.”
And what has this short-lived (and short-sighted, it now looks) move to crack down on beggars in Leeds cost us? And what will they come up with to replace it?