The leader of the local borough where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry later this year has demanded police use their powers to clear the area of homeless people ahead of the wedding.
Simon Dudley, the leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, home to Windsor Castle, wrote to Thames Valley police asking them to take action against “aggressive begging and intimidation”.
“Homelessness is completely unacceptable in a caring, compassionate community such as ours,” he says in the letter, which was seen by the Guardian newspaper.
He said he had evidence that “a large number of adults that are begging in Windsor are not in fact homeless, and if they are homeless they are choosing to reject all support services… In the case of homelessness amongst this group, it is therefore a voluntary choice.”
Dudley has previously tweeted that “residents have had enough of this exploitation of residents and 6 million tourists pa [per annum]”.
In a second tweet he said he would write to Thames Valley police “asking them to focus on dealing with this before the #RoyalWedding”.
The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is due to take place on May 19 at St. George’s chapel in Windsor Castle. Tens of thousands are expected to line the streets of the historic town of Windsor on the banks of the River Thames.
Windsor Castle is one of the Queen’s residences and where she spends most weekends.
In Dudley’s letter he goes on to say: “Obviously, the level of tourist interest is set to multiply with the royal wedding in May 2018, and there are increased concerns from our residents about their safety. The whole situation also presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light.”
Dudley suggests the police use the powers under laws like the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleeping and begging, and the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.
But Murphy James of the Windsor Homelessness Project told the Guardian that the 1824 Vagrancy Act was “the most inappropriate way of dealing with the problem. It means treating people like they’re committing a crime, whereas there is nothing villainous in what they are doing.”
He also rejected the notion that people were homeless out of choice. “For someone to ask for loose change, your self-esteem is at its lowest. No one does this from choice. We shouldn’t be demonising these people but asking them what we can do to help.”
Dudley’s letter was dated Jan. 2 and sent to Anthony Stansfeld, who is the police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley.
Stansfeld told the Guardian he was surprised that the letter had been “released publicly but not yet been sent directly to me”.
He said in a statement that he would investigate the points raised in the letter once he had received it, and that police officers “work day in and day out to keep people safe from harm and make the Thames Valley a safe place to live, work and visit”.