Police drop charges against Napier beggars

Police have dropped charges against three beggars who were charged with breaching a bylaw that forbids soliciting for money without permission.

Napier City Council's manager of community strategies Natasha Carswell told The AM Show the bylaw had been used in the past for people busking and doing street appeals, not for begging. 

She said police interpreted the bylaw "as they did", but it isn't how Council want it used. 

"We haven't used it to address begging. Because it doesn't specifically talk about begging, we haven't felt we wanted to use it to enforce that behaviour," she said.

Ms Carswell says the Council works hard to try to connect people who need help with services such as housing. She said removing people from the streets is one thing but it doesn't actually address any of the issues that led them there in the first place.

Napier retailers complained to Council in June about a group of beggars they said were shoplifting and intimidating customers.

The Mayor Bill Dalton said there are no easy answers and giving out infringement notices wouldn't do any good.

In an email to businesses in early July, Ms Carswell said there would be a crackdown on beggars. "We will implement a focused programme in the CBD that involves a security approach backed up by police when needed," the email said.

Had charges not been dropped, police interpretation of the bylaw would have been tested in court, with the men charged with breaching the bylaw planning to argue begging is their fundamental freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights.