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Politics.co.uk has reported that anti-homeless protesters in Manchester looking to challenge an injunction from the banning them from camping in the centre of the city have been denied access to legal aid. This effectively prevents them, or their legal representative, from challenging the decision.
In a statement, Ben Taylor, the solicitor representing the group, questioned the morality of the situation: "The government’s decision to restrict legal aid means that the most vulnerable people in society are deprived the opportunity to challenge the court’s decision. The Legal Aid Agency and the Ministry of Justice should be ashamed of themselves."
The Manchester Evening News has obtained a copy of the ruling, which states that rough sleepers are not allowed to pitch tents or ‘other movable temporary forms of accommodation’, although it permits the use of sleeping bags and blankets, benches, doorways or bus shelters, as well as hostels and charity-provided spaces.
As well as having the power to send in bailiffs to evict people from multiple city centre locations, including St Ann’s Square and Castleford, the city council can prosecute anyone breaking the injunction, with a maximum sentence for offenders set at two years in prison.
Speaking to the Salford Star, Wesley Dove, one of the members of the group, suggested: “The court judgement never considered the lives and well-being of the people of the camp and where they are supposed to go now. We did not create the homelessness problem, but we are a vital part of the solution.”