A homeless man has been jailed for five months – for sitting on the floor “without reasonable excuse”.
Haydon Mark Baker sat on the pavement three times – outside Greggs, McDonald’s and a shop called tReds in Taunton, Somerset.
But it was deemed there was a high risk the 33-year-old, who was staying at a homeless hostel at the time, could be seen to be begging and he was arrested.
And he was hauled before judges at Taunton Magistrates’ Court who sentenced him to 20 weeks in jail for breaching Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBO), three charges he admitted. He was also ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge.
Baker had been banned from sitting on the pavement in Taunton
under the CBO.
But the sentence has been branded “complete madness”.
Lawyer, journalist and filmmaker Peter Stefanovic tweeted: “This is complete madness.
Jailing the most vulnerable members of our society for being homeless, for having nothing of their own, is simply the most cruel and stupid thing anyone could do.”
One rough sleeper regularly seen sitting outside Taunton Station, who gave his name as Phil, said: “He’s got mental health issues and needs help.
“It’s crazy locking him up for that. It’s no good to keep sending him to prison – it’s not like he’s running into shops and nicking stuff.”
The court heard Baker, who has mental health problems, has previous convictions for breaching other CBOs and begging.
But Avon and Somerset Police declined not to comment on the latest offence.
Taunton-based Chief Inspector Lisa Simpson said at a meeting earlier this year that “locking them (repeat offenders) up for a few months” has a minor impact on their behaviour.
She added: “We need to work out why these things are happening.
“When it comes back to drugs, alcohol and mental health, we should be at the end of the process of resolving.
“From years of police experience, arresting them does not stop their behaviour.”