The Metropolitan Police have apologised for the arrest and detention of a homeless pensioner, accepting that they breached his human rights.
Anthony Sinclair, 70, had been living outside University College Hospital in a tent for eight months. On November 10th 2023, police instructed him to leave; when he refused, he was dragged out of his tent and held four six hours for refusing a dispersal order. His tent and belongings were reportedly destroyed during this incident.
Mr. Sinclair’s dispersal unfolded days after former Home Secretary Suella Braverman controversially decried homelessness as a ‘lifestyle choice’ and clamped down on measures under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The Act empowers police to issue dispersal orders under s.34 and act decisively on homelessness.
Mr. Sinclair’s arrest sparked outrage, with images of the police forcing dispersal and disposing of mattresses, tents and toiletries leading to public outcry. Met Commissioner Mark Rowley and Chief Superintendent Andy Carter have both apologised, acknowledging the actions as ‘unlawful’ and at odds with the appropriate course of action. They agreed to compensate Sinclair and promised further training to avoid future misuse of police powers.
The apology was welcomed by Mr. Sinclair. It was also welcomed by Grassroots organisation, Street Kitchen, and prominent civil rights group Liberty, who took legal action on his behalf. Both groups raised concerns about the way government crackdowns amounted to criminalising poverty and homelessness. There are still calls for greater awareness of the harsh reality of homelessness, and for Mr Sinclair’s case not to be dismissed as ‘an isolated incident’.