Injunction to restrain begging in Leeds City Centre discharged by High Court

26 February 2015

HHJ Saffman sitting as a judge of the High Court at Leeds District Registry discharged an injunction made on 24th June 2014 preventing all persons from sitting or loitering on a thoroughfare or Leeds City Station with any article to be used for begging, such as caps, hats, boxes or similar receptacles – see Yorkshire Evening Post and BBC News for the news reports.

Leeds City Council obtained the injunction / restraining order from “begging” in Leeds City centre against “persons unknown”, even though a number of the alleged beggars, including 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 and applications were then made to commit them to prison for breaching the injunction in July and August 2014 respectively.

Following the grant of exceptional case funding, after a lengthy struggle and two reviews, on 5th November 2014 an application was made by Mr X to set the injunction aside or for it to be discharged on the basis that:

  • The Court did not have power to make it as there are statutory remedies that should have been used;
  • 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;
  • 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).
  • The injunction failed to consider the personal circumstances of the individuals concerned and was impermissibly made against “all persons”; and
  • Should not have been granted as it subverted the prohibition on the making of bye-laws without the permission of the Secretary of State.

Mr Y was shortly thereafter also granted exceptional funding and made a similar application.

Leeds City 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.

HHJ Saffmann, 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.

This case demonstrates that:

  • Local Authorities should not seek to use section 222 Local Government Act 1972 injunctions to seek to restrain or prevent behaviour that could be regarded as anti-social or a nuisance by common law injunctions, but that the proper remedies to be employed, for which legal aid is available to defend, are the statutory remedies set out in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Policing and Crime Act 2014; and
  • That 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 unlawful begging injunctions of this type may be in force in other cities in England.

Garden Court North Chambers’ James Stark (for Mr X) and Joseph Markus (for Mr Y) were instructed by Rhiannon Jones of Lester Morrill Solicitors.

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