Skip to main content

The Criminal Justice Bill and homelessness

What is the Criminal Justice Bill and how does it target people experiencing homelessness?

The Criminal Justice Bill is a new piece of legislation being introduced by the UK Government.

The Bill contains new powers for police and local authorities to enforce against so-called ‘nuisance rough sleeping’ in England and Wales. These powers include being moved on, a fine up to £2,500 and even imprisonment. 

None of us should be criminalised for being homeless. Poverty pushes people into homelessness and the fact that homelessness exists in 2024 is a failure of Government policy. 

This Bill would criminalise and dehumanise those of us that have been failed by a system that should keep all of us safe. Email your MP now to help us stop it.


Take action - Email your MP

Is sleeping rough a criminal offence?

Sleeping rough has been a criminal offence since 1824. Under the Vagrancy Act, people sleeping rough in England and Wales could be moved on or fined up to £1,000.

Following a decades-long campaign, led by Crisis and supported by politicians across the political spectrum, people with lived experience of homelessness and a wide number of charities, Parliament voted to repeal this archaic Act in February 2022.

But the repeal has not yet been ‘enacted’, meaning the Vagrancy Act is technically still in force. 

If the Criminal Justice Bill is passed, it would make so-called ‘nuisance’ rough sleeping a criminal offence. The Bill says someone could be considered a ‘nuisance’ if they are sleeping in a doorway, if they have ‘excessive smell’, or even if they simply look like they are intending to sleep on the streets. 

This leaves the door open for anyone sleeping rough or 'appearing to' to be criminalised based on a judgement about how they look or act. This is unacceptable. 

We should treat people who are homeless with dignity and humanity – not with the threat of police action. 


How we scrapped the Act

Is the Criminal Justice Bill replacing the Vagrancy Act?

After Parliament voted to repeal the Vagrancy Act, the UK Government launched a consultation on what should replace the legislation.  

Despite many of the voices that campaigned to repeal the Vagrancy Act arguing that replacement legislation wasn’t necessary, they have introduced new laws as part of the Criminal Justice Bill which  are even more punitive than the Vagrancy Act. 

Many of the MPs who spoke out against the Vagrancy Act, have already raised their voices against the proposals in the Criminal Justice Bill. But to stop it becoming a reality we need more MPs from all parties to stand against them. 

Take action

How can we end homelessness?

Criminalising people for sleeping rough is not how we end homelessness for good.

But we know what does need to happen to make a future free from homelessness a reality. That's why we're calling on the Government and all UK political parties to commit to ending all forms of homelessness

Join our Make History campaign and ahead of the 2024 General Election we can get politicians to do the right thing and make homelessness a thing of the past.


Let's Make History