Another day and another Sky News article grabbed my attention. Today it is “Metal Studs Treat The Homeless ‘Like Animals’” (at http://news.sky.com/story/1277765/metal-studs-treat-the-homeless-like-animals).
In London, the reaction to a homeless person sleeping in their entry hall was met with an almost medieval solution. They decided to place spikes on the floor at an interval so that a person would not go to sleep in that location. Most people reacted in outrage on the solution. The article goes on a little more and added the following statement “Homelessness charities say this is not a one-off, metal studs have been appearing across the country for the last decade as the number of people sleeping rough rises.”
So the people are actively ‘acting’ out against these homeless people. The part that puzzles me is the legal side of the matter. In the UK they have R v Miller  UKHL 6, a criminal law case demonstrating how actus reus can be interpreted to be not only an act, but a failure to act. The judgment here “I see no rational ground for excluding from conduct capable of giving rise to criminal liability, conduct which consists of failing to take measures that lie within one’s power to counteract a danger that one has oneself created, if at the time of such conduct one’s state of mind is such as constitutes a necessary ingredient of the offence.”
I found it pleasing to use the vagrant case, because the person who did this is less a person than the people he/she is trying to chase away. In this case it is not just the homeless person, but ANY person tripping, falling and getting hurt because of those spikes. The culprit who placed the spikes will be directly responsible for inflicting grievous bodily harm, which under section 18 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 could get the spike culprit a sentence up to life imprisonment. It was interesting that the news cast did not bear this out, or any criminal transgression for that matter. The Guardian has almost the same story and is pleading for the Southwark council to act against this.
Let’s look at this situation one more time from a legal perspective (me now grumpily looking up my UK Offences against the Person Act 1861 section 18 in PDF form). Even if it is the homeless person and not an innocent bystander, we could prove harm with the first instance (one drop of blood is enough) and as the victim is likely either a homeless person or even a junkie, we get a factor indicating greater harm as per “Victim is particularly vulnerable because of personal circumstances” in addition we have culpability through “Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility to the victim based on the victim’s disability (or presumed disability)“, which we might achieve considering the social status of the person, which also proves discrimination. The spikes and the effort required shows premeditation and the two additional aggravated factors are “Deliberately causes more harm than is necessary for commission of offence” and “Deliberate targeting of vulnerable victim“.
My question becomes, why are the parties (or so they seem to) not talking to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Services) in regards to this act? There is a host of additional parts in these events and they all point to acts of maliciousness.
Even here in Australia the NSW Crimes Act 1900 would have a powerful case against the placer of these spikes. It becomes thus a question on whether it is just for the council, or are nations in the Commonwealth facing a new level of intolerability and as such, the wave of these events are not even properly looked at. The fact that the press is not speaking out in regards to the crimes that these spikes represent is also a matter of question, as is the lack of visibility from the CPS in this matter, especially if we consider the quote “they appeared a few weeks ago after someone had been sleeping rough there“, which implies that several authorities should have alerted the police and they should have alerted the CPS to these events.