People should not be arrested for being smelly, minister claims

By John Mercury April 3, 2024

People should not be arrested “just if they smell” the education secretary has said.

Gillian Keegan was asked about the matter as Tory MPs seek to strip the provision to detain someone based on odour from the government’s Criminal Justice Bill, which is inching its way through parliament.

Under the bill, it is proposed police or local authorities will be able to issue “nuisance begging directions” to move people on, and if they do not comply they face a month in prison.

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The legislation cites “excessive smells” as a form of “damage” for which someone can be issued with an order.

The government has not indicated if it supports changing the bill, but Ms Keegan told Sky News she did not agree with the principles it laid out.

Asked if people should be arrested if they smell, Ms Keegan said: “Well, no, people should not be arrested just if they smell.”

Asked why the provision has been put in the bill, the education secretary said she had not “looked at the detail of it”.

She added: “I guess the word is excessive, and I don’t know what they mean, but it’s really about making sure that we support people – but also we make sure that people feel safe on our streets… and it’s a pleasant environment.”

The government has pledged to bring in the Criminal Justice Bill before the next election, although it is currently making its way through the House of Commons – with MPs proposing amendments that may come to a vote later.

Read more:
Government facing backbench rebellion over homelessness
Keegan apologises for swearing on camera
Rough sleeping is ‘lifestyle choice’ says Braverman

Pic: PA
Image:
People face being incarcerated for creating “excessive smells”. Pic: PA

Conservatives from across the political spectrum – backed by Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Plaid Cymru MPs – are trying to soften the bill’s stance on homelessness.

They want to strip the nuisance begging directions from the bill.

The group of Conservatives backers is claimed to be around 40, which is enough to overturn the government’s majority if they are joined by the full weight of opposition parties.

However, only a handful have publicly signed the amendments – Bob Blackman, Nickie Aiken, Tracey Crouch, Selaine Saxby, Stephen Hammond, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Jo Gideon, Caroline Nokes, Derek Thomas, John Penrose and Damian Green.

When the bill was introduced to parliament last year, Suella Braverman was still the home secretary.

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She claimed at the time that rough sleeping was a “lifestyle choice”.

Ms Keegan disagreed with this – saying “normally, people have had a lot of hardship before they get to that point”.

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