Oh the Humanity!

‘Humanity Torbay’ is apparently a charitable incorporated organisation, and one that has worthy, if semi literate, aims.

Humanity Aims

So it would be a little surprising to find Humanity Torbay being described as vigilantes by the local council and told to stop their activities immediately by the police, wouldn’t it?

Yet here we are. The stunningly misnamed ‘Humanity Torbay’ have apparently stuck up posters in parts of Torbay that say this…

Warning poster

 

And they apparently carried this through, taking photos of people in public spaces. (Wait, it gets worse). Quite how they avoided photographing ‘members of the general public’, while taking photographs of people in public is a mystery. One that might be explained by what follows…

Yes, ‘Humanity Torbay’ was running a social media campaign against begging in Torbay, with the hashtag #fakehomeless. Yes, they put onto facebook and other media photographs of people that they claimed were ‘fake homeless’ and ‘professionally begging’.

Before we get on to how badly this went wrong and how legally bad it is, I’m about to accuse some people of being economical with the actualité, so we should meet them.

Here they are: Susie Colley, (Self proclaimed Lady) Ellie Waugh (founder and chairman(sic)) and Ashley Simms of Humanity Torbay

From Devon Live

 

Mr Ashley Simms told the BBC:

“One thing these people don’t like is being photographed or filmed, so wave gone and done that. We have identified who is genuine with the relevant charities and their names and if they are homeless or not, and five of them of them have told us they won’t go begging anymore if I don’t put their photo up

“Out of the 17 photographed, only two were genuine street homeless.”

‘Identified who is genuine with the relevant charities’? I believe this to be, shall we say, a fib. A huge fib.

No homeless charity would break data protection, let alone collaborate with these vigilantes. Witness the response of People Assisting Torbay’s Homeless – a local homeless charity – who were approached by ‘Humanity Torbay’ about identifying the ‘real homeless’ and quite rightly told them to get stuffed. Now if Mr Sims wants to take me up on this, he is welcome to identify the ‘relevant homeless charities’ that were consulted. But then, of course, ‘Humanity Torbay’ poses as a homeless charity. Perhaps they consulted themselves?

What was the result? Well inevitably, these vigilantes managed to put out on social media a photograph of someone who actually is street homeless, identifying them as ‘fake homeless’ and a professional beggar. The individual was promptly subject to abuse from the fans of ‘Humanity Torbay’.

That, let us be honest, looks a lot like defamation, and harassment. And maybe other offences.

As for taking photos – well, photos in a public place are probably outside privacy law. However, taking photos with menaces? Here is Mr Ashley Simms again:

“Within the last 24 hours, five have agreed to leave town begging if we don’t expose them, WAIT FOR IT, to protect their benefits.”

So, presumably Mr Ashley Simms and his cohorts approached people, took photos of them and told them that they would have their photos put up on social media as ‘fake homeless and professional beggars’ unless they agreed to leave. That sounds a lot like harassment.

Still, the deeply ironically named ‘Humanity Torbay” had a valid concern, didn’t they? The rise in ‘professional beggars’ on the streets of Torbay? Well, no, not according to Devon and Cornwall Police, who said there was no increase in the numbers of professional street beggars in Torbay.

I gather that Ashley Simms and (‘Lady’) Ellie Waugh, at least, are local business people. They also appear to be – and this is an expression of opinion, not actionable in defamation – complete shits.

As an afterthought, I do really, really hope that ‘Lady’ Ellie Waugh’s title is a purchase from Highland Titles. That would be like opening the gate for Gozer.

 

 

About Giles Peaker

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +.
Posted in Homeless, Housing law - All.

6 Comments

  1. Thanks Giles

    I hope others will do as I will and complaint to the Charity Commission

    These are the reasons they list

    Other SERIOUS complaints
    Report SERIOUS concerns to the Charity Commission, for example if a charity is:

    NOT DOING WHAT IT CLAIMS TO DO
    losing lots of money
    HARMING PEOPLE
    being used for personal profit or gain
    INVOLVED IN ILLEGAL ACTIVITY

    https://forms.charitycommission.gov.uk/raising-concerns/

    They are not doing what they claim to do, look at their CC entry:

    What
    • GENERAL CHARITABLE PURPOSES
    • DISABILITY
    • THE PREVENTION OR RELIEF OF POVERTY

    Who
    • THE GENERAL PUBLIC / MANKIND

    How
    • PROVIDES SERVICES
    • PROVIDES ADVOCACY / ADVICE / INFORMATION

    How does photographing and harassing people come under the above?

    It is clear that harassment is harm and from what you report that they are in breach of the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), I urge anyone who has read the above post to read the act below

    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1997/40

    Just the first paragraph

    Prohibition of harassment.

    (1)A person must not pursue a course of conduct—
    (a)which amounts to harassment of another, and
    (b)which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

    [F1(1A)A person must not pursue a course of conduct —
    (a)which involves harassment of two or more persons, and
    (b)which he knows or ought to know involves harassment of those persons, and
    (c)by which he intends to persuade any person (whether or not one of those mentioned above)—
    (i)not to do something that he is entitled or required to do, or
    (ii)to do something that he is not under any obligation to do.]

    So in my opinion they are INVOLVED IN ILLEGAL ACTIVITY

    This should be included in any complaint to the Charities Commission but also consider what it says on the Charity Commission complaints page:

    “Contact the police on 101 if you suspect illegal activity.”

    There is photographic evidence of this (I notice they took down the facebook video in the article) however the one on the mirror shows them admitting what they planned to do so there is no doubt about intent.

    https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/row-erupts-over-campaign-photograph-12095016

    They really need to be shut down and the best way to do that is to make them personally liable for the harassment and harm that they appear to have done.

    As such I hope that you will consider providing some representation of the victims of this harassment (if they can be found).

    One thing that does concern me is their mention of “the chamber” in the video which I take to mean the local chamber of commerce. I was driving through Milton Keynes a few months ago and heard on local radio station of another business group making allegations of so called professional beggars coming in from Northampton, they also alleged that pitches in underpasses were being rented by criminal elements, one has to question the “hearsay” aspect of such comments. This is becoming widespread.

    Homelessless is very complex and the best way to support it is to support the genuine charities, every area has one, speak to any Local Council housing dept and they will tell you who they are because they signpost to them on a daily basis.

    I would urge anyone who wants to really help to go volunteer for the genuine charities, roll your sleeves up, get out of your cocoon and support them with deeds, it may be helping them fill out forms or just providing a friendly face and non judgemental approach. We are ALL at risk of homelessness, ask yourself just how long you could survive with loss of income, how long would it take for you to lose your credit, your family or your home and that is without the complex issues that homeless people often have, such as profound mental health and DSM conditions that prevent their ability to participate in the processes put in by Councils and Government.

  2. They look like, think like, behave like complete shits. Well spotted Giles. [rest deleted by NL for repetition of the point]

  3. The Judge, The Jury & The right-wing executioner. These people make me sick to my stomach.

  4. Even more bizarre when you consider this from just a month ago, which suggests they originally started with the best intentions – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-42949160

    (We’ll politely draw a veil over the discrepancy between the 300 – 450 they said they were seeing a week, compared to Torbay’s rough sleep estimate of just 24).

  5. There is a problem with ‘the well meaning’ conflating homelessness with begging. Most of those who beg are not homeless, and those that are are not begging in order to pay for accommodation. It’s a shame that there is such a knee jerk liberal hysteria when local authorities use public space protection orders to address the issue, leaving it to fruitcakes like this to ‘address’ the issue.

    • All the campaigns against PSPOs that I’ve seen have been where the orders have directly criminalised rough sleeping or rough sleepers, to be honest.

      There are existing powers to deal with aggressive or professional begging, but a well drafted PSPO wouldn’t be a problem.

Leave a Reply (We can't offer advice on individual issues)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.