Manchester City Council must either use or scrap their injuction, says the Homeless Camp’s legal representative after a bid to imprison seven people for breaching it was overturned.
The injunction bans people from erecting tents in the city centre in protest to the council’s homelessness policy and carries a penalty of up to two years in prison or a £5,000 fine.
Judge Allan Gore ruled last week that the council had failed to follow the civil procedural rules relating to taking someone to court to commit them to prison.
He called it ‘a fundamentally misconceived and inappropriate way to advance criminal proceedings’.
Ben Taylor of WTB Solicitors, who represents three of the defendants, told MM that the injunction was now useless.
“What is the point of having a negative injunction order which is denied by my clients, which they don’t intend to enforce?” he said.
“That’s why I say either issue or discharge. Doing neither is wholly unsatisfactory.”
The injunction was introduced to disband the initial camp, which was set up in Albert Square in April.
The Homeless Camp has since moved to St Peter’s Square, St Anne’s Square, the Castlefield Bowl and Oxford Road.
The camp has just moved to Piccadilly Gardens after being broken up by bailiffs and private security.
Mr Taylor added: “My clients are delighted that it was dismissed but angry that they were threatened with prison.
“You can understand the frustration that my clients have because they intended to defend the proceedings properly but were unable to do so because of the ineptitude of Manchester City Council’s failure to follow the rules.
“I’m hoping that the legal aid agency finally see sense and grant me legal aid to allow me to take the matter back to court and challenge the injunction order.”
Councillor Nigel Murphy, the council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, feels they lost the case on a technicality.
He said: “Our application was rejected due to technical issues, but the injunction remains in place.
“We’re now working with our partners to develop our strategy around homelessness in the city, as we remain committed to addressing the needs of homeless people in the city.”
Mr Taylor’s clients – Wesley Dove (30), from Beswick, Nathan ‘Stretch’ Cary (29) from Moston, and Ross Irving (27) from Wythenshawe – said they wanted the injunction permanently overturned.
Mr Dove said: “The council can’t keep punishing the homeless.
“Let’s end homelessness once and for all. We need to help each other.
“I want my name off this injunction order and I will not stop until that happens.”
Mr Cary said: “Now can I stop worrying about facing jail?
“I didn’t choose to be homeless and don’t want to be punished for having nowhere.”