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Wed 22 May 2019
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Homeless people risk being banned from their local train station under an increasingly used order called a Withdrawal of Implied Permission (WIP).

Data obtained by Byline Times shows that between 2013 and the end of 2017 483 people were banned from train stations under these orders. Although the number issued dropped after the first year they were introduced, it has steadily increased since 2015.

Withdrawal of Implied Permission orders are designed to be used against people engaging in ‘anti-social behaviour’ but there are concerns they could disproportionately target homeless people. Examples of behaviour that could lead to an order being issued have been listed on notices in various train stations. As well as offences such as shoplifting the examples include: begging, loitering, persistent rough sleeping and alcohol related crimes.

In 2016 British Transport Police working at London Victoria station tweeted a picture of such a notice while commenting that “begging in and around the station could result in a 6 month ban” and encouraging people to report “unwanted behaviour”. (

Official guidance on the use of the orders says: “Passengers’ first impressions of these cities may initially be influenced by their experience travelling through a managed station. In an effort to increase the positive view tourists and commuters have of these the WIP has been introduced.”


Targeting the Most Vulnerable

Many of the stations using WIPs are in areas with high levels of rough sleeping. In the first two years they were introduced just eight stations were using the powers but that increased to 26 by 2017.

This comes as concerns grow over the use of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) which allow local authorities to prohibit non-criminal activities within a specified area. These have often been used against homeless people with some councils banning begging or loitering in town centres.

“This action targets the most vulnerable people. Rather than slapping orders on them they should be finding ways to help them.”


Carla Ecola, The Outside Project

Carla Ecola, one of the founders of the UK’s first LGBTIQ homeless shelter, The Outside Project, told Byline Times that homeless people often use train stations for shelter and safety, especially those who are most vulnerable.

“We’ve heard about this a lot from our clients,” she said. “It’s often the people who feel at risk sleeping elsewhere that will stay in or around train stations. One young trans woman we work with was sleeping outside Kings Cross because she felt safer there as it’s so busy and there are security cameras but she was constantly being told to move on.

“This action targets the most vulnerable people. Rather than slapping orders on them they should be finding ways to help them.”


Only For Christmas

Two of the stations regularly using the orders have been praised in the past for holding Christmas events for the homeless. Euston station, which opened on Christmas Day in 2017 to serve meals to rough sleepers, issued the most WIPs between 2013 and 2014, while Birmingham New Street station, which held a similar event in 2018, banned the highest number of people in 2017.

A person issued with a WIP is banned from a station for 6 months, this can include entry to pharmacies on the premises where they might collect prescriptions. If the order is breached the person can face arrest. Figures obtained by Byline Times show that four people have been charged for breaking a WIP order in the last five years.

The British Transport Police said that “tackling crime and making the railway a safe and pleasant environment” is a priority for them.

“Anti-social behaviour, aggression and violence will never be tolerated,” a spokesperson said. “A number of steps are taken to prevent incidents and disorder from occurring on the rail network. Withdrawal of Implied Permission (WIPs) orders are therefore used in cases where individuals are continually exhibit anti-social behaviour, violence or aggression towards station staff or members of the public.

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“This removes the persons implied permission to be within the railway environment. Each WIP is scrutinised to ensure it is the most appropriate method in resolving the issues presented.”

More from this Byline Times investigation:

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