Beggars to Get Criminal Records in New Blitz on Anti-Social Behaviour

Article excerpt

Byline: PATRICK HENNESSY

BEGGARS in London and across the country are to be handed criminal records as part of a massive government clampdown on anti-social behaviour to be unveiled next week.

They are to be targeted in a major new drive which sees the majority of them officially branded drug addicts and many treated as serious criminals.

Leaked Home Office proposals reveal begging is to be made a "recordable offence" so convictions can count towards a criminal record and persistent offenders can be fingerprinted.

After three convictions, courts will be able to impose a " community penalty" such as local work schemes or compulsory drug treatment. The plans, to be published in a White Paper ahead of new legislation later in the year, also include a new range of u80 fixed-penalty fines for antisocial offences.

Children as young as 10 could be hit in extreme cases and there will be a trial scheme extending fines to 16 and 17 year olds. The biggest extension in fixed penalties, however-will be aimed at those over 18 who are drunk and disorderly, throw fireworks or cause " harassment, alarm or distress".

There is no mention in the White Paper of plans floated by Tony Blair to cut benefit payments to the parents of truants or to persistent offenders. These are thought to have been abandoned after a Cabinet rebellion.

Beggars appear to be the key target of the clampdown, which emerged just days after a call by the Tory leader of Westminster council for persistent and aggressive-offenders to be jailed. Simon Milton called for government action after being told by tourists that begging - including harassment at cash machines - is the main reason for not wanting to return to London. …

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