A homeless man who breached an injunction was yesterday (8 March 2018) prosecuted in court.
We obtained the injunction against Mr Tony Muguma on 31 May 2017 when he was living in the Water Gardens car park. The injunction required him to move from the car park but also prohibited him from erecting his tent and/or storing his belongings and/or sleeping rough on any land owned by the Council.
Everyone, including Mr Muguma, who presents himself or herself as homeless to us is offered help and advice. Mr Muguma’s case is more complex than most. Due to his current immigration status, he has no recourse to public funds (NRPF). As a local authority, we do not have the discretion to spend public funds on NRPF clients and are therefore unable to provide accommodation. However, we have worked with other agencies, solicitors, local charities and faith groups over the past two years to provide additional support for his ongoing legal issues.
Mr Muguma breached the injunction in September 2017 by erecting his tent on council land in Lawn Lane. The smoke from his fire and the behaviour of his visitors was causing distress to local residents who felt that they could not have their windows open or freely use the park. Mr Muguma failed to move on when requested to do so.
In court, Mr Muguma admitted that he had breached the injunction in all three respects over a five-month period from early July to December 2017, but claimed he had not known he was camping on local authority land until 25 October 2017. Having heard evidence, Her Honour Judge Bloom found that that was clearly wrong, as we had advised him in early July 2017 that he was in breach of the injunction and Mr Muguma had knowingly remained on Council land.
Given his circumstances, however, the Judge neither fined him nor sentenced him to a term of imprisonment, but warned him that he might not escape a term of imprisonment, suspended or otherwise, if he breached the injunction again.
Our officers have worked with Mr Muguma over the past few years to provide support for his housing and immigration issues. DENS, who run our homeless hostel The Elms, have, at times, been able to provide him with temporary accommodation. This is not the outcome that we want for anyone who becomes homeless in our borough, regardless of their situation.