A dispersal order bans people ‘who choose the lifestyle’ of being homeless from Bournemouth centre during Christmas season, said a Council officer.
Dorset Police requested the order to evict groups of ‘street drinkers, beggars and vagrants’ between November and February from the greater Bournemouth town centre.
“The dispersal order is mainly targeted at older persons who chose this type of lifestyle,” said community safety team officer Sian Jenkins.
“I don’t understand why they don’t use the Council’s services and help to get out of that lifestyle.”
Homeless charity Hope fundraising manager Sam Roubaiey commented: “Very few people choose alcoholism and homelessness. They rather suffered from domestic violence, family breakdown, loss of job or adopted alcoholism from their parents.”
He added: “It is Christmas season and the Council wants to enhance the profile of Bournemouth for tourists. But the dispersal zone would simply transport the problem to Charminster or Boscombe.”
Mrs Jenkins said the dispersal was as a tool for the police to manage safety for tourists: “Police told us that crime statistics go up during Christmas time.”
However, figures published on the national police website on anti-social behaviour incidents in 2012 were lower in winter.
The manager of the Obscura Café in Bournemouth Square Antonio Soures said: ‘I prefer to have more police around. That stops crime before it happens.”
The public notices informing about the dispersal zone state that a person who is not complying with an order by police can be fined for up to £5,000 or imprisoned for up to six months.
The Crown Prosecution Service Press Officer Tim McAtackney said that the relevant legislation was laid out in section 32 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act: “A person (..) is liable (..) to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months, or to both.” A level-4 fine amounts to a maximum of £2,500.
“That is a catastrophic negligence of local authorities”, said Mr Roubaiey.
Mrs Jenkins responded that Bournemouth Council might be using aspects of a revised law.
Dorset Police has declined to comment.