Freedom of Information request confirms massive rise in number of Londons Hungry criminalised and jailed stealing 2 eat , most for taking waste food from supermarket bins .. whose next? Homeless for littering our streets?
It is only a matter of time before the homeless are jailed and criminalised for failure to find a home and for causing an offence by sleeping on London streets the way the legal system in the Uk is moving and in the way the poorest and most in need are being criminalised and jailed quietly without a thought or political comment or a murmur of public outrage.
When i wrote my book * Food Bank Britain * to address the appalling ignorance and bigotry around food bank use , one of the most startling figures i was able to secure through the freedom of information act, was the national figure for the staggering number of people hungry jailed and criminalised for stealing to eat..how could it be just that when our prisons are full to bursting and by the Government own figures 2 million people had been sanctioned in 2016 cutting of on average for 13 weeks without any form of cash income that the new growth in prison population was the rise of the hungry poor not the jailing of the bankers for causing the financial crises , but the poorest whose services and support services had been slashed to the bone or totally erased and justly the public anger did lead to comment but sadly going by my latest results via the freedom on information request route little has changed.
This January securing the figures for the number of hungry jailed stealing to eat was no easy task one year on, a wall of silence greeted me and in the end i had to accept the Police position that the cost of responding to my freedom of information request would be greater that the £600 budget each question i am told is set, although fortunately in was able to secure through one helpful official the London Figures the borough by borough figure attached to this article .
Whilst many in the present climate we live will think it is just that criminals are locked up for stealing , but what does it say about our society in which for stealing an average shop food valued to £15 the state will lock them up for 2 weeks and fine on average £150 , which if they had had in the first place they would not be criminalised and yet it does get worse, most of the people charged are people caught * stealing * food from the waste bins in supermarket store yards that would only be taken to land fill at a huge cost to the store, you could well ask why are stores still throwing away such fast amounts of food, whilst criminalising and jailing huge numbers of people instead, and yet in responses to my freedom of information request in London, the reply i received had the heading ^ People Proceeded against with a charge or summons where food property was stolen 1st Jan -31 December 2016 with the shocking figure 2.823 .
In 2016 would not the most economic solution for police in this position to give a warning and direct the arrested in the direction of the newest food bank? is it really the best value of tax payers money to arrest, charge and put these people who clearly need help not jailing, through the courts and then into overfilling jails? .
The London position and numbers also clearly show a lack of understanding of the issue of any senses of cohesion or consistently as Camden is the number one borough for criminalising its poor with 134 souls in 2016, when you put this against the area most likely not to get charged Kingston Upon Thames at just 36 people charged in 2016 ,we should all ask why the police and local Authorities still a year after this issues was exposed in my book have failed to put into place any policy or procedure other than to increase rapidly the number from waste bins to jail.
The poor pay a terrible price , everything costs so much more when you are poor, the options are so much less when your poor and poverty is NOT cool , and is something we don't talk about , it happens to someone else..Is it not time to start thinking about what we do to end the cause and create a better system to dispose of food waste and a more fair and human way to insure the poorest amongst us have access to decent food, after all these court costs us tax payers huge sums of money we don't have and only expecting the poor to live of cheap junk food costs us all in the impact on poor heath and its impact on our over stretched NHS.
Ray Barron Woolford
Author Food Bank Britain.
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