Is the Right to Beg – a Fundamental Right

It’s an interesting question which will probably receive vastly different answers depending on where you happen to be. Now in New Zealand three defendants have gone to court to argue that the right to beg is a fundamental freedom of expression. The three men involved are from Napier City – Turei Cooper, Major Keelan and Myles Hemopo, have pleaded not guilty to charges of breaching a council bylaw that prohibits them in soliciting for cash without consent.

A major human rights attorney believes that the guys have a fantastic case, as any council bylaw that prohibited begging was illegitimate.

Apart from councils throughout the country are keeping a close watch on the Napier instance to learn what effect it may have in their very own pleading bylaws.

Cooper and Keelan will have their case heard in a judge-alone trial in August. Hemopo is going to be assessed on precisely the exact same day.  There will be local media covering the trials but it’s likely because of the nature of the case, there may be some international coverage.  Some people are even hoping that the BBC will be present although it’s blocked abroad from outside UK.
In a memorandum to the Napier District Court, Cooper and Keelan’s attorney, Alan Cressey said that the guys will attempt to challenge the authenticity of Napier’s bylaw “insofar as it pertains to pleading”.

“It’ll be filed, as it currently has in foreign jurisdictions, that to deny someone the right to ask others for help is the most fundamental violation of freedom of expression possible,” he explained.

“Moreover … pleading is a form of political expression that is located at the center of freedom of expression since it draws attention to the defendants’ predicament, thereby raising social and political awareness amongst the general public.”

The 3 guys’s alleged offending occurred on different dates in May. Keelan faces charges of soliciting for cash and breaching city bylaws, Hemopo of breaching a bylaw, and Cooper of soliciting for cash and disorderly behavior.

The council bylaw in question says which soliciting any subscription, either collection or gift or project any busking at a public place may only be accomplished with prior consent of the council or an authorised individual.

When asked ​what standards the Napier City Council considers before deciding to grant approval, regulatory options supervisor Hayleigh Brereton said it’s scope to issue licenses for busking, raffles, info stalls and street appeals, supplied a charitable objective was clearly exhibited.

Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis explained that when the beggars could demonstrate the bylaw was void under the Bill of Rights, the council wouldn’t have the ability to use it in order to lay charges.

“The whole point of freedom of speech that can be at the Bill of Rights Act, is that individuals ought to have the ability to talk no matter what people in authority believe of this message”

Auckland and Hamilton have bylaws that outlaw annoyance behavior – like intimidatory pleading – while Christchurch scrapped a pleading bylaw after deciding it would be too hard to enforce.

Wellington City Council voted this past year against a pleading ban. Nevertheless, it’s now reviewing its public spaces bylaw and pleading will be among several things tested.

Human rights attorney Michael Bott reported no council could build a bylaw which has been inconsistent with Bill of Rights.

“By outlawing pleading the [Napier City] council has essentially behaved unlawfully.”
Councils can legislate against beggars forcibly or aggressively approaching individuals for cash on footpaths, Bott said. However banning the weak from seeking assistance from others more fortunate is always overkill.

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